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Paro tshechu: increasing arrivals

By the end of April 2006 about 5,163 tourists would have visited Bhutan according to tourism officials out of which more than 2,500 would be coming in to experience the Paro tshechu, the biggest attraction of the spring season, which starts today.

Tourism officials expect an increase of about 700 arrivals for the Paro Tshechu month.

Druk Air, the national airline, has added three additional flights from April 8 to 10, 2006 to handle the tourist numbers and hotels in tourist 'hotspots' around the country are booked to the brim.

Paro Dzong

According to one tour agent, all the 14 tourist standard hotels with 561 beds in Paro have been booked and reservations have been made in the three luxury resorts, Aman, Uma and Zhiwaling.

Private houses in the valley have also been hired to accommodate the tourists.

Although tour operators are looking forward to welcome their guests they are concerned about the accommodation crunch in Paro valley.

"We sometimes have to break large groups into smaller groups and prepare separate travel plans to accommodate them," said an operator. Tour operators are also hoping for better weather.

"Agents abroad consider this time of the year favourable, weather wise," said Sangay Wangchuk of Etho Metho Tours and Travels, which is bringing in about 300 tourists this month.

"Of late we have been experiencing rain which probably means that it would be snowing high in the mountains," said another operator.

He said that tourists trekking in the high mountains could be forced to turn back if it continued to rain. "This means that there would be more pressure on finding accommodation," he said.

Paro Dzong
Incoming flight could also get delayed and lead to cancellations.

Although the tourism department has been encouraging tour operators to break away from the present norm of having tourists during the months of March, April and May, it is still considered as the ideal time to visit Bhutan apart from the Autumn season months.
"Given a choice we would like to bring tourists during the so called 'lean months' to cut down on the hassles but it is the way that Bhutan has been promoted so far," said an operator.

The Punakha tshechu, which was first introduced two years ago, is attracting a sizeable number of tourists. This year about 1,383 tourists witnessed the tshechu, which is popular for its unique historical enactment of the Pazaps (ancient warriors).

Meanwhile, trekking is still small. Last year only 613 of the 13,626 tourists that visited the country undertook a trekking type holiday, states the tourism monitor, 2005.

Tourism officials said that there is a misrepresentation that Bhutan is a trekking destination because most tourists visiting Bhutan are cultural tourists.

Contributed by Kinley Wangmo, KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper 2006
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