So that tourist arrivals is not affected again in Bumthang

Business: Hoteliers and the business community of Bumthang are urging contractors and the Department of Roads (DoR) engaged in widening the East-West highway to keep the road clear during the Jambay Lhakhang tshechu in November.

Businesses took a hit as a result of roadblocks this month during the Tamzhing Phagla Chothpa, which coincides with the Thimphu tsechu.

Tourism is a vital source of income for hoteliers, businesses and farmers in Bumthang, and the Tamzhing Phagla Chothpa and Jambay Lhakhang tshechu are two major tourist attractions.

The roadblocks occurred despite Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay instructing contractors and the DoR during his visit to Bumthang to keep the roads clear according to the business community.

River Lodge proprietor, Pema Dawa, said the majority of tourists en-route to Bumthang for the Tamzhing Phagla Chothpa could not make it because of numerous roadblocks particularly one at Thumangdra in Trongsa.

“Approximately 750 tourists bound for Bumthang had to return from Trongsa while some had to go back heartbroken when roads couldn’t be cleared even after waiting for a couple of days camping at Tangsibji,” Pema Dawa said.

Usually, over 1,000 tourists come for the Tamzhing Phagla Chothpa every year.

Gongkhar Lodge owner, Tshering, said that six groups of tourists cancelled their visits because of the roadblocks. “Two groups of 8-10 people and four groups of two-three cancelled their reservations at my lodge after the roads were blocked at Thumangdra,” Tshering said.

He added that another group returned from Gangtey after finding that the roads are in bad condition because of the on-going widening works.

Hoteliers also claimed of many tourists returning from Punakha or Wangdue because of the bad road conditions.

Though Bumthang has a domestic airport, tourists, according to hoteliers still prefer travelling by road in absence  of daily flights and frequent  flight cancellations from bad weather.

“Moreover, with a capacity of only around 26, travelling by air is expensive since the tourists have to charter the flight while coming in hundreds in a short span of time,” Pema Dawa said.

A chartered flight costs around USD 4,000 for a one-way trip.

“We would like to requests the contractors to take care of the fragile and critical areas to avoid blocks,” Rinchenling Lodge proprietor Jambay Ngedup said.

Trongsa DoR chief engineer Tougay Chedup said that the roads were blocked because of heavy landslides caused by incessant rain for three days beginning October 11.

The road conditions however are expected to improve with the monsoon ending. “No blocks are expected provided it doesn’t rain again,” Tougay Chedup said.

Tempa Wangdi