Destination Chhukha - New upcoming tourist destination in Bhutan post-COVID-19
Tourists can look forward to new tourist attractions, trekking routes and local produce from Chhukha district.
Chhukha Dzongkhag (district) is located in South-west Bhutan and has an area of 1879.5 square kilometres. It is divided administratively into 11 gewogs (blocks), one sub-district, and one major township.
Two of the biggest hydropower plants in the country are located in the district; Chhukha and Tala Hydropower Plants.
Realizing that there is a need to take advantage of the huge untapped opportunities for product development along the Phuentsholing-Thimphu highway, the district officials spearheaded by tourism experts is working on developing Chuukha as a new tourist destination in Bhutan.
Phuentsholing, the border town between Bhutan and the Indian town of Jaigoan is the main land route to travel into Bhutan. However, the bed nights spent by both regional and international tourists are relatively low. Only 55% of the tourists have entered the country through Phuentsholing in the past years.
Currently, the main challenge in the district is the underdevelopment of tourism products and the lack of tourism infrastructures. Due to the lack of tourist attractions, most of the tourists entering Phuentsholing often travel straight through Chhukha to better-developed tourist destinations in the northern districts.
What Can Chuukha Offer?
Chhukha dzongkhag is equipped with several advantages for tourism development. These include its location in the western part of the country where the maximum arrivals of visitors are concentrated. The district has ease of accessibility both by air and land to all market sources. There is a diversity of cultural and nature-based products in the district.
Chhukha is also gaining popularity amongst the locals to spend their winters due to the warmer temperature. Thus, it can be an alternative destination for tourists to explore during winter in lieu of the other districts.
The objective is for each of the 11 gewogs to prioritize one Unique Selling Proposition (USP). These USPs will market diverse products and services to enhance visitors experience. It will also provide opportunities to the locals and contribute towards low carbon tourism.
Currently, the main sources of income for the people of Chhukha are livestock rearing, vegetable farming, and cash crop cultivation.
Some of the activities that tourists can potentially look forward to including picnics and camping, village hikes, immersing in local lifestyle, birdwatching and exploring interesting sites.
Multiple trekking routes can potentially be developed and river rafting has been recommended in lower parts of Wangchu and Amochu by the Tourism Council of Bhutan. One can also trek to the most popular Dagala Trekking trail through Chhukha district.
The district also has a rich biodiversity of flora and fauna. Currently, the scope for ecotourism development in Chhukha is huge but scantily explored.
On the 5th of February, the first National Stakeholder Consultation was held in Thimphu along with all the stakeholders involved in the development of Destination Chuukha.
Tourism Action Plan
In the 12th Five Year Plan (2018-2023), Chhukha aims to increase the number of tourists arriving by at least ten-fold. The first step in realizing this planned target is to have a Tourism Action Plan in place. Through this Tourism Action Plan, Chhukha aims to establish itself as a favourite winter destination for international as well as domestic tourists. The identification of the ecotourism sites and the development of new trekking routes are ongoing. Various water adventure sports such as rafting is also under the pipeline.
The Economic Development Sector at the Dzongkhag Administration is designated to undertake tourism development activities. In collaboration with the Nature Conservation Division (NCD) and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), these stakeholders will be exploring the potentials of Chhukha in the tourism sphere.
Following the tourism development aspirations of the government, the tourism action plan of Chhukha aims to promote responsible tourism that is economically, ecologically, culturally, and locally sustainable within the overarching development vision of Gross National Happiness (GNH).