Eco-Call has provided services for the following projects:
1. Tourism Development plan for Eastern Bhutan – Funded by Austrian Development Agency
Tourism forms an important part of the economy for Bhutan. However the major visitation is concentrated in the western part of the country. The need to increase visitation to the east is seen as a priority to support the economy and provide benefits to the people of the east. Spearheaded by the Tourism Council of Bhutan with financial support provided by the Austrian government, Eco-Call partnered with Beyond Green Travel LLC a consultancy firm based in the US to develop the plan. During the study period of over 4 months the work involved field trips to the sites, meetings/workshops with all stakeholders including local communities, reviewing of past works to achieve the final deliverable of a comprehensive plan document for tourism development in the East from product development to marketing. The final report is available with the Tourism Council of Bhutan.
2. Bhutan Green Hotel Guidelines – Funded by EU
The rapid tourism development in the country has led to the development of many hotels and other service providers for tourists. The need to promote healthy practices and reduce adverse impacts is becoming increasingly vital. Recognizing this the Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO) implemented an EU supported project titled ‘Low Carbon Tourism Project’ in partnership with Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) and the National Environment Commission (NEC). Eco-Call in partnership with International expert drafted the green hotel guidelines based on the GSTC model. A draft copy of the guidelines is available with ABTO.
3. Ecotourism Development in Royal Manas National Park, Bhutan – Funded by WWF
The Royal Manas National Park (RMNP) located in the south of Bhutan harboring rich biological diversity is the first officially designated protected area of Bhutan. Recognizing the tourism potential in and around RMNP several isolated initiatives have been undertaken to tap the tourism opportunity. However till date no concrete plan has been developed. WWF who has been a long standing donor for RMNP is also keen to advocate conservation travel as a means to promote conservation through tourism. WWF has pursued Conservation Travel as a key strategy in its mission to build a future where people live in harmony with nature . Conservation Travel is sustainable tourism that connects the traveler with nature and supports its protection by ensuring benefits from tourism investment flow to the local stewards of wildlife and wild lands. The first rapid assessment of conservation travel readiness was completed by Eco-Call in partnership with Solimar International, a US based sustainable tourism consultancy firm. Subsequently in 2016 follow up actions is expected to continue through a TCB project supported by WWF.
4. Review of the Tourism Policy of Bhutan – Funded by World Bank
The tourism policy of Bhutan based on the principles of ‘High value Low impact’ has been operating successfully for many years. However the need to take advantage and adapt to changing market scenarios is felt necessary. TCB as the apex tourism body for the government had requested the World Bank to support this review. The world Bank in partnership with Solimar International, Eco-Call, and TCB conducted the review.
5. Low Carbon Tourism project – Post project evaluation – Funded by EU
Increasingly as tourism develops in Bhutan it is imperative that appropriate interventions are taken to ensure that the path to its sustainability is pursued. Comprehending this aspiration and committed to promulgate the promotion of responsible tourism practices, the Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO) initiated the low carbon tourism project with the support of EU. The main aim of the project was to “promote sustainable production and consumption practices across the tourism value chain of Bhutan coupled with sustainable livelihood development”. The project is aligned with the Royal Government of Bhutan’s development philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH) and its commitment to remain carbon neutral. The project commissioned in 2012 was completed in October, 2015. The post project evaluation was conducted by Eco-Call.
6. Rekindling the sacred trail – a community based ecotourism initiative by the Youth Development Fund (YDF) – Funded by Aide et Action
Considering the challenges being faced by the youth and recognizing their vital role in shaping the destiny of Bhutan, the Youth Development Fund http://www.bhutanyouth.org/ under the dynamic leadership of Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Tshering Pem Wangchuck continuously strives to empower, support and inspire the youth. Various livelihood opportunities are being explored to strengthen the economic and social opportunities for the youth. Rural to urban migration continues to rise leaving many empty houses in the villages as the elusive search for better opportunities in the urban areas continue. Perceiving this adverse reality with many of the youth being displaced and the cultural heritage under threat YDF has initiated the concept of ‘My Gakhid village’ (meaning my happiness village). This noble initiative seeks to empower youth through development of livelihood skills. The expected skills that have been identified to develop are arts and crafts (including painting, woodcarving, and embroidery), bamboo weaving, tea making, and tailoring. To incentivize and complement the development of these skills the development of community based ecotourism is seen as an opportunity. Tourism, besides creating a market for these products and providing both tangible and intangible benefits to the local people it will in the process instill a pride among our youth in preserving our rich cultural heritage. However, tourism if not developed properly can also lead to many negative impacts. In order to avoid the pitfalls and reap the positive benefits it is critical to develop ecotourism based on sound planning and management. Eco-Call because of our experience and knowledge in this field has been requested by YDF to draw up a tourism action plan along with providing awareness and training opportunities. The pilot site will be the cluster of villages below Dochula pass towards the sacred Chimmi Lhakhang along the ancient trail, the route that was once used by lam Drukpa Kunley. The development of a good ecotourism plan/strategy is expected to give impetus to this enlightened vision of ‘My Gakidh Village’.
7. Capacity building on handling of Emergency and rescue services in promoting safety in tourism development – Funded by Austrian Development Agency
Recognizing the need to promote safety in tourism the Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO) with financial assistance from the Austrian Development Agency initiated a training to build capacity on handling of Emergency and rescue services. The idea was to train about 35 people from different sectors as the core group who would become trainers to train over 200 people. The training conducted for a week hired 6 experts from the Indian Himalayan centre for adventure and Eco-tourism (IHCAE) based in Sikkim (India). Ecocall did the overall coordination besides conducting the training workshop and also helped to produce the draft guidelines for handling emergency and rescue services.
8. Training Needs Assessment – Funded by the Government of Netherlands
The Government of Netherlands under the Sustainable Tourism Development Asia project is supporting the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) to conduct a training needs assessment. The aim of the project is to increase the number of tourists from the markets of the European Union to Bhutan by strengthening the capacity of Business Support Organizations (BSOs), specifically TCB. The tourism programme in Bhutan has the specific objectives to align the strategic vision of tourism stakeholders in Bhutan and to increase the quality of the service level of the Tourist Council Bhutan, more specifically to give guidance to a team of TCB staff to perform their own training needs assessment. The ultimate objective is that TCB is able to deliver a training needs assessment themselves which identifies how to implement an adequate training system which guarantees sufficient quality for the sector (tour operators, hospitality, management, guides, hotels). EcoCall is assisting the international expert to help TCB finalize the training needs assessment.
9. Study on Tourism Carrying Capacity – Funded by Japan Environmental Education Forum (JEEF)
The community based sustainable tourism project implemented by the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) has been designed as a part of the conservation and sustainable livelihood program to harness the tourism potential of Phobjikha Conservation Area and Haa’s natural and cultural richness for the benefit of local communities living there. Besides providing opportunity for alternative livelihood source of rural communities, it also contributes to the tourism plan for decentralization and management of tourism at the destination level. A carrying capacity of tourism resources in these two areas is required to study and understand the level of human activity relating to tourism that Phobjikha Conservation Area and Haa Dzongkhag can accommodate in the context of the social-ecological environment and visitors experience. Eco Call has been fielded to conduct this study.
10. Destination Manas : A sustainable and inclusive experience – Funded by WWF
The Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) in collaboration with WWF Bhutan and Royal Manas National Park (RMNP) are in the process of scaling up ‘community based ecotourism development’ in and around the Royal Manas National Park, in the southern part of Bhutan. This study is to develop an integrated tourism development plan for RMNP and surroundings, which is market-oriented, private sector driven, multi-stakeholder, sustainable, and with maximum local participation and social and economic benefits, and supported by the government through conducive policies and regulations.
11. Destination Haa: A Tourism Action Plan for Haa (July 2018 – June 2023) – Funded by ICIMOD
Situated along the Western border of Bhutan, the Dzongkhag (District) of Haa is rife with potential for tourism development. Its unique culture, rich biodiversity, and proximity to Paro and the capital city of Thimphu makes it an ideal destination for tourists looking to immerse themselves in a culturally unique and environmentally awe-inspiring experience. Considering these prospects this action plan takes stock of the past studies to present a clear road map for sustainable tourism development in Haa to stimulate socio-economic, cultural and environmental prosperity. The study initiated through the Department of Forests & Parks in partnership with the Haa Dzongkhag administration was funded by the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) through the Kanchenjunga Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative.
12. Coaching of Local Tour Operators to promote tourism sustainability – Funded by Travelife
A memorandum of Understanding was signed between Travelife and EcoCall sharing a common interest towards promoting sustainability and social responsibility within the travel sector. Under this few local tour operators were provided coaching and technical support to assist them to achieve the ENGAGED and PARTNER level under the Travelife scheme. https://www.travelife.info/index_new.php?menu=home&lang=en
13. Draft Concession framework – Funded by Bhutan Foundation
A simple practical guide for promoting concessions in the Protected Areas and State Reserve Forest of Bhutan was developed in a draft form. Considering the opportunities to develop ecotourism this concession framework is to encourage and enhance the provision of services and opportunities to promote ecotourism development to support the management and conservation of Bhutan’s extensive network of Protected Areas (PAs) and State Reserved Forests (SRFs). The study initiated by the Nature Conservation Division was financially supported by the Bhutan Foundation.
14. National Eco-tourism Project for Bhutan – Funded by UNDP
In recognition of the immense potential of ecotourism as a means to achieve the overarching development philosophy of Gross National Happiness the UNDP and the Royal Government of Bhutan commenced the development of a big ticket national project to help position Bhutan as an ecotourism destination. The project supports the 12th plan to create new jobs, businesses, and value chains, protect Bhutan’s unique biodiversity, and reinforce Bhutan’s global position as a natural carbon sink. Services provided by EcoCall include technical assistance in the capacity of – National Ecotourism expert, Environmental Safeguard expert, National consultant for Value Chain Analysis, and Biodiversity and Tourism Expert.
15. Tourism Action Plan for Chukha Dzongkhag – Funded by ICIMOD
Chukha is one of the twenty districts of Bhutan located at the south-west of the country. Phuentsholing town, is the main gateway and economic life line serving all the western and central areas of Bhutan. Sharing the international boundary with India it gives easy access to tourists coming from India. In 2019 over 55% of all visitor arrivals (mainly Indians) used land via Phuentsholing as their mode of entry into the country. Chukha falling within the Kanchenjunga Landscape and seeing the potential of tourism development the ICIMOD is funding the development of the Tourism Action Plan in collaboration with the Chukha Dzongkhag and Department of Forests & Parks.
16. Development of a National Ecotourism Strategy and Action Plan
Bhutan, with a forest cover of over 72% and an extensive network of protected areas covering approximately 51% of the country is perfectly placed to be a ecotourism destination. However, till date the country has not been able to maximize on this opportunity due to lack of a guiding document. Therefore, recognizing the immense potential that ecotourism offers for promoting conservation and sustainable development the Nature Conservation Division (NCD) under the Departments of Forests and Park Services (DoFPs) with the financial support from Bhutan for Life project has taken the initiative for the development of a National Ecotourism Strategy and Action Plan. This strategy is expected to design a road map for the development and promotion of ecotourism in the country integrating conservation and development and contributing to the overarching development vision of Gross National Happiness. EcoCall Services has been awarded to take up this assignment.
17. A Tourism Carrying Capacity study for Bhutan
Bhutan’s tourism guided by the cautious policy of High value, Low volume emphasizes sustainable tourism development to meet the needs of current destinations and visitors while protecting and enhancing opportunities for the future. The number of arrivals have been rapidly increasing from 287 arrivals during its inception in 1974 rising to 315, 599 arrivals in 2019. The numbers have resulted in overcrowding in certain areas particularly during the peak tourist seasons. This has alerted the need for destination / site management, impact on tourist experiences and other related issues to ensure that the high value tourism is maintained. Aware of the limits of the carrying capacity the need is seen to devise tourism management tools including site management plans for key attractions to guide and manage visitors to remain socially, environmentally and economically sustainable. For this an assessment of the carrying capacity of the destination (country) and with focus on specific Dzongkhags / sites is essential to understand the carrying capacity and initiate appropriate interventions to promote sustainable growth. This task has been awarded to EcoCall services by the Tourism Council of Bhutan.
18. Development of National Interpretation of Bhutan for promoting High Conservation Values
WWF through its project of living landscapes aims to secure High Conservation Values (HCVs) in Bhutan. Through this project the concept of HCVs will be integrated into the national land use planning system. The approach of HCVs is new to conservation management in Bhutan. Therefore, the development of National Interpretation (NI) forms a critical guide and foundation for the adoption and application of the approach of HCVs in Bhutan to provide a scientific basis for good land governance and facilitate the country’s overall vision of sustainable development.
19. Development of Community-based Ecotourism to support the conservation of the White Bellied Heron
Bhutan harbors many rare and endangered species of avi-fauna. Giving it the potential of providing huge opportunities for ecotourism development. In this regard the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature aims to protect the White-bellied Heron (Ardea insignis) by exploring the scope of promoting ecotourism development. The heron habitat includes the two river basins of Punatshangchu and Mandechu that flows through the Dzongkhags of Punakha, Wangduephodrang, Trongsa, Zhemgang, Tsirang and Dagana. The study examines the feasibility of developing community based ecotourism by involving the relevant communities of local people in these six Dzongkhags. The objective is to encourage and empower the participation of these local people to support the conservation of the white-bellied heron and at the same time stimulate visitor interest.