Phurpa Lhamo

If not for the pandemic, Taktshang in Paro, the Buddha Dhordenma Statue in Thimphu, and Punakha Dzong among other tourist sites would be bustling with visitors.

Understanding the issue of overcrowding in these sites, the Tourism Council of Bhutan assessed the visitor capacity at these three tourist locations.

According to the study findings, Taktshang should have a maximum of 110 visitors at any given time.

Similarly, the Buddha Dhordenma Statue has a maximum carrying capacity of 523 visitors, and Punakha Dzong, 418 at any given moment.

These numbers were arrived at by considering information such as areas used by tourists, daily hours open to tourists, and the average time of visit by an individual.

Considering these factors, the study also showed the total daily visitors at these sites.

The survey showed that total daily visitors at Taktshang should be a maximum of 1,178; 3,661 for the Buddha Dhordenma Statue; and 1,672 for Punakha Dzong.

These recommended numbers are to ensure that visitors have a better visiting experience and to avoid overcrowding.

Tour operators and guides also took a survey, as they are more aware of the challenges of meeting visitor needs and site management.

Out of the total participants, over 93 percent of the respondents agreed that some of the sites and attractions are overcrowded.

Out of the many sites identified, the respondents pointed out that Taktshang, followed by Punakha Dzong, experienced the most crowding.

Timing of visits at tourist sites was pointed out as one of the major site-related issues.

With the results, the study made three recommendations recommending the proper management of the sites; development of strategies to address factors contributing to overcrowding; and finalization of criteria under each parameter for site management.

“The estimation of carrying capacity is not to be used as a target to be achieved but instead to be used as a means or instrument to steer the development of tourism to achieve sustainability in all aspects: economic, ecological, social, cultural, and local. Further carrying capacity is not fixed,” stated the study.

The study added that for the development site and visitor management plans for Taktshang, the Buddha Dordenma, and Punakha Dzong a study should be conducted as soon as possible.

“Considering that the Covid-19 pandemic has put a pause on tourism, it would be a perfect time to develop strategies for these sites so that it can be ready for implementation once tourism resumes,” TCB said.

Some of the management work at these sites is underway.

The study was conducted by TCB in early 2021.