Tourism: The number of tourists visiting Merak and Sakteng in Trashigang has gone up after a drastic drop in 2013.

About 149 tourists visited the two remote gewogs of Trashigang in 2014.  In 2013, Sakteng wildlife sanctuary (SWS) recorded only 29 tourist arrivals.  A total of 495 tourists have visited the two gewogs after the launch of ecotourism in 2010.

Tourists visit Merak and Sakteng to experience the unique lifestyle, culture and tradition of the highlanders, said Sakteng gup Tshewang Tshering. “We have to make some improvements at the campsites.”

SWS is supporting about 23 households in Merak and Sakteng to build standard toilets attached to their houses.

In Merak, people have already started homestay programmes for tourists.  The gewog also has a guesthouse for tourists.

Merak gup Ghayden said tourists prefer staying with the villagers.  With the help from SWS, 17 households are constructing toilets to improve homestay facilities.

Locals also said that tourists have recommended improvement of the eco-trails and placement of markings along the trails.

To curb the growing issue of litter, Merak mangmi Jurmey said that villagers carried out mass cleaning campaigns from March to October. “In 2013, we placed a huge dustbin to collect garbage at the edge of Merak village.”

Tourist season in the two gewogs of Merak and Sakteng has just started and already 25 tourists have visited the gewog.

By Tshering Wangdi, Trashigang