Taken for a ride

Taken for a ride

The Nomad’s festival that was recently organized by the Ministry of Agriculture was a good idea. The event, which was meant to show off our nomadic culture, heritage and traditions, also sought to help our nomads sell their produce while, at the same time, promoting “off season” tourism.

But, the choice of the location is questionable. Transporting 90 nomadic groups from eight dzongkhags to Bumthang was not a good idea. Tourists perceive Bumthang to be too cold at this time of the year. And, Bumthang does not have a large enough local population to interact with the nomads and buy their produce. Hence, the low tourist count, and complaints from the nomads themselves.

If the idea was to spread the benefits of tourism, the festival should have been organized in Trashigang. The winters there are milder and the entire Brokpa community descends to the valleys naturally at this time of the year. So, the festival would have created a rare tourist attraction in the East. In addition, the local population there is big enough to naturally sustain a market for seasonal nomadic produce.

Otherwise, the festival should have been organized in Punakha, where the entire nomadic community of Gasa spends their winters, and is easily accessible to the nomads of Haa, Paro, Thimphu and Wangduephodrang.

And Bumthang? It already receives a disproportionate share of attention. Five of the 15 festivals advertised in the TCB website take place in Bumthang, and the valley already hosts other government-sponsored tourism events like the Mastutake Festival.

So why Bumthang?

Photo credit: Kuensel