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Tourism in Bhutan
Trashigang: More tourists
Tourists in Trashigang
Western tourists with expensive cameras hanging around the neck are becoming a common sight in Trashigang town at this time of the year.

"Except for few government guests, tourists were hardly seen in Trashigang for many years," said Pema, a local businessman. "Not anymore now."

Tshering, a corporate employee, said the number of tourists were unusually more this year even though the festivals in the dzongkhag were yet to start.

Tourist groups began arriving in Trashigang in September 2006. So far more than 35 groups totalling to about 250 tourists have visited the dzongkhag.

Tourists said the unusual landscape of Trashigang, the outstanding dzong structure, and the traditional handicraft centres were attractions. 'We purposely came to see the place so that we could see the whole of Bhutan,' said a German tourist Georg Vierheller. 'The scenery is different from other places and it is very picturesque.'

Some tourists took a day long excursion to nearby places like Trashiyangtse and Khaling and returned to Trashigang town in the evening. Some tourists were on their way to the Guwahati airport in Assam, India, and were halting in the town for the night.

The increasing number of tourists has meant accommodation problems in Trashigang town. The only hotel in the town that meets the standards to house tourists is booked most of the time.

According to the proprietor, Kinga, reservations were made by travel agents two months in advance. The 20 rooms of the hotel are rented out for Nu. 1,500 to Nu. 1,800 a night.

Recently, a government guesthouse was leased to a private operator and this added 12 more rooms for tourists.

Kinga said that tour operators preferred to send their guests in small groups to avoid the accommodation crunch. While a majority stayed in Trashigang for a day or two, few groups have stayed for almost a week.

Trashigang town

Kinga, who also runs the government guesthouse, has received advance bookings from more than 30 tour operators for the Trashigang tshechu in November 2006.

He said that arrangements had been made for the tourists to stay in some of the farmhouses in Pam, about five kilometres from proper Trashigang town, and to camp out.

Trashigang dzongda Minjur Dorji said that improved infrastructure including good hotels along the lateral highway in Bumthang and Mongar was one of the reasons for the increasing number of tourists visiting Trashigang.

"But Trashigang needs suitable accommodation to draw tourists and we lack that," he said. He said that the dzongkhag was on the look out for good places to build hotels. "It is one of the oldest towns in the country yet it is very sad that we do not have good hotels here," he said, adding that this had deprived the town of opportunities to host income generating schemes.

Dzongda Minjur Dorji said that security issues in the past had affected tourism in the east.

Contributed by Kesang Dema, KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper, 2006
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