The far flung Gasa Dzongkhag will be bustling with activities as the second Takin festival kicks off today at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Park (JDWNP) with the aim to develop and promote wellness tourism.
Subsequently, a Menchu program will also be carried out the next day with the help of the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB).
The main objective of the festival is to showcase the conserved biodiversities of the JDWNP, make people aware of the significance of conservation, and develop stewardship in the minds of people toward nature.
The park manager of JDWNP, Phuntsho Thinley, said the festival will also help in promoting Gasa Dzongkhag as a district of hot spring and medicinal bath. “Gasa has been very popular in terms of organic concept and also very popular for hot spring and medicinal bath,” he said, adding that the festival will help provide off-season eco-tourism and means of alternative income opportunities to park residents, especially the highland communities, and educate the locals on community based tourism.
TCB officials say the Takin festival will provide opportunity for visitors to see Bhutan’s national animal in the wild, adding that Gasa is the perfect spot to celebrate the event given that it being recognized as the winter habits of the Takins.
Gasa is also well known as the summer habitat of the Takins. There are roughly about 700 Takins spread across the various areas of this district. Out of the 700, about 500 Takins are said to be reportedly found in the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Park.
The media focal person of TCB, Damcho Rinzin said there will be no screening of documentary films on Takins this year unlike 2011. He said TCB will instead showcase the lifestyles of the people of Gasa and their traditions.
Cultural programs like Goenzhey by the people of Khatoe and Khamoe gewogs, Pachham by the monastic body of Gasa, Aulay dance by Layaps, Shanzam Chham by dancers from Khatoe and Khamoe gewogs, khuru competition, archery competition and wresting competition will be carried out on the first day of the festival, according to TCB officials.
The guests and visitors will also be taken for a visit to various medicinal baths such as Tokey Menchhu, Jagoe Menchhu and Mani Menchhu, and Chatshachhu on the second day.
About 10 stalls with a variety of products will also be put up by the locals. These stalls will exhibit cultural artifacts and textiles, dairy products, local made wines, medicinal plants, mushrooms and nature conservation demonstrations.
Meanwhile, tourist camp sites have also been recognized and handed over to the locals. “The locals charge for the camp sites and it has been a major income generating means for them. We are not targeting the international tourists, as our first priority is always Bhutanese. And if international tourists come then it is well and good” Phuntsho Thinley said.
He said many of the Bhutanese can afford to come to this festival instead of going for vacation in unhealthy places outside the country. “This will also help generate the spirit of mind and affection towards nature.”
However, Damcho Rinzin said they are hopeful that this festival will help attract more tourists especially during the low tourists’ season. “The festival provides a wonderful opportunity to interact and learn the lifestyles of the people in Gasa and also observe the items produced by the people of Gasa.” He added that TCB is working closely with tourism stakeholders to significantly flatten seasonality; and that tourism products like Haa Summer Festival, Nomad Festival, and etc were developed after close consultations with stakeholders mainly to address the problem of seasonality.
Meanwhile, a TCB official said the Takin festival should be promoted as an important event in the tourism calendar because preservation and celebration of unique beautiful cultures of the people of Gasa can be achieved through this.
“We are also happy to fully open some of the improvements and new initiatives put in the hot springs by including an element of therapeutic medicinal baths, not very far from the festival site,” he said, adding that this facility will be available throughout the year and would be an important step in promoting Bhutan as a wellness destination.