Governance of Community-Based Ecotourism in Bhutan: A Case Study of Nabji Trail in Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park

Type Thesis or Dissertation - Master of Science
Title Governance of Community-Based Ecotourism in Bhutan: A Case Study of Nabji Trail in Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2011
A limitation of Bhutan’s controlled tourism policy of “high value, low impact” is that its benefits have not extended to rural communities in remote places. To provide such opportunities, a pilot project on community-based ecotourism known as the “Nabji Trail” was developed and opened in Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park (JSWNP) in November 2006. The trail involves a walking tour across six villages including two ethnic groups, Monpa and Khengpa. Several tourism enterprises, including employment as porters, guides, cooks, selling handicrafts and providing cultural entertainment, are offered by local residents to raise income. Ten percent of all tourism earnings are required to be deposited into separate Community Development Funds (CDF) for the purpose of sharing benefits more widely. The funds as well as other tourism tasks are governed through village- level “Community Tourism Management Committee” (CTMC).
The few studies to date of the Nabji Trail have been fairly positive, although there has been a suggestion that governance issues may pose problems. This study aimed to provide an indepth analysis of governance of the Nabji ecotourism trail with particular attention to the operation of the “Community Tourism Management Committee” (CTMC), and the distribution and benefits of the “Community Development Funds” (CDF) across the six participating villages. It also sought to understand household benefit and involvement in ecotourism in the context of their broader household livelihood activities. Questionnaires were developed and administered through personal interviews by the author to a random sample of 33% (N=68) of the total households in the six villages along the Trail, and to all available CTMC members (N=12). Data also included personal observations of conditions along the trail.
Participation as well as economic benefit was higher among households in the three Monpa villages compared to households in the three Khengpa villages. This is because household food security is higher and alternative income earning opportunities are more available for Khengpa households.
Four cross-cutting issues were found to influence tourism governance capabilities in the the six villages: e 1) lack of stable participation of Community Tourism Management Committee (CTMC), 2) residents distrust of CTMC due to the misuse of Community Development Funds (CDF), 3) unequal wages for porter and pack pony services between villages, and 4) delinquent payments for porter and pack pony service. Many residents view the CTMCs as inefficient and ineffectual. The evidence suggests that there are many local governance problems that warrant assistance from the extra-local partners who helped to establish the ecotourism project and are responsible for oversight, including Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park (JSWNP), the Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO) and the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB). The study recommends their involvement to conduct a comprehensive review of CDF and CTMC bylaws and practices as well as intervene on a range of other local disputes that have emerged since the project began.

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