Recommendations of the Workshop on “Eco-Tourism for Sustainable Development and Gender Empowerment in South Asia”
Thimphu, Bhutan, 31st August-1st September 2014
The Workshop on “Eco-Tourism for Sustainable Development and Gender Empowerment in South Asia” was held in Thimphu, Bhutan, on 31st August and 1st September 2014. This Workshop was organised by SWAN (South Asia Women’s Network) in collaboration with Tourism Council of Bhutan, with the support of ICIMOD (Kathmandu)’s EU-funded Himalica Programme. Mr. Mandip Singh Soin, FRGS, Founder President of The Eco-Tourism Society of India (ESOI) was the facilitator of the Workshop.
Participants in the Workshops were eminent representative from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The delegate from Pakistan could not attend. The Programme, the List of Participants, and the List of papers/case studies presented in the Workshop are at Annex A.
The Workshop appreciated and welcomed the Inaugural Address by Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji, Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Forests of the Government of Bhutan.
The countries of South Asia share a unique civilisational heritage. South Asia is also a region of great bio-diversity and rich geographic diversity, ranging from tropical eco-systems to those of the highest Himalayas. Tourism is naturally the major revenue generator for all countries of this region. The conference recognised that conventional mass tourism must become more responsible in order to be sustainable. Tourism activities should not destroy either the environment or local traditions and indigenous knowledge, nor should it exclude local communities. In all these aspects, eco-tourism is showing the way forward by being inclusive and strengthening rural communities. Ecotourism is essential for sustainable development of regions and people.
The Workshop participants agreed and emphasised that it is crucial to integrate women into the process of sustainable eco-tourism development. SWAN’s vision is to achieve sustainable development for South Asia through an integrated approach incorporating the centrality of women’s agency, voice, participation and leadership in every aspect of sustainable devolvement. In the context of eco-tourism, women play a central role in rural communities in crafts and textiles, waste management, arts and music, cuisine and hospitality, preservation of the environment and culture, and inculcating traditional values in the next generation. All these are core values for the development of eco-tourism. The Workshop agreed that in making local communities beneficiaries, even stake holders in eco-tourism projects, the aspect of gender empowerment for the women in these communities should be given the highest priority. Eco-tourism should become part and parcel of skills, livelihood and sustainable development programmes for the women of South Asia.
The Workshop provided an opportunity for leading eco-tourism practitioners and promoters, and leading activists promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment in South Asia to share best practices and exchange ideas on ways and means to benefit rural and under privileged women in South Asia by enhancing the quality of their lives through eco-tourism with community involvement.
ICIMOD’s support to SWAN and Tourism Council of Bhutan in organising this eco-tourism workshop is the beginning of a longer term partnership through networking between these organisations for working together to develop eco-tourism in order to promote pro-poor value chains and products and for promoting women’s empowerment in South Asia.
The key recommendations of the Workshop with the focus on gender empowerment, relating to policy advocacy, leadership development and building capacity, are :
- SWAN and ICIMOD will explore collaboration and partnership for implementation of eco-tourism pilot projects, together with allied services and value-chain development, with the focus on youth and women. To begin with this could be explored through the EU funded Himalica program in Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal, as well as in North East India trough other initiatives.
- SWAN and ESOI would explore collaboration and partnership in the implementation of similar eco-tourism pilot projects in Maldives, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan and India.
- As the direct output of the collaboration in this eco-tourism workshop, SWAN and ICIMOD plan to bring out a joint publication of the case-studies presented in the Workshop. ICIMOD will take the lead in the quality control and editing/publishing of the book. SWAN and ESOI will support the ICIMOD team in this by providing the required inputs. The publication, if done, is planned to be launched during the International Eco-Tourism Conference being hosted by ICIMOD and Myanmar Ministry of Hotel and Tourism in April 2015.
- The Workshop recommended that each country should establish norms and criteria for the development of sustainable tourism with due attention to gender empowerment, to cover all forms of tourism, including Heritage, Adventure, Water-based, Medical, Wild Life and Nature Tourism, among others. ESOI recommends that each country use the Sustainable Tourism Criteria of India (STCI), which are based on the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC). Additionally, the Safe and Honourable Tourism Code of Conduct as launched by India (in August 2014) could also be considered for adoption.
- Bhutan’s best practices regarding high value, low impact tourism policies as well as the organic farming and community based tourism practices were appreciated and recommended for emulation.
- It is important to inculcate the right mind-set on issues of hygiene, waste management, energy conservation and other eco-tourism practices by sensitising children in school through education curricula and compulsory social service.
- Cultivating capacity in order to develop proper infrastructure, hospitality training, home stay, interpretation centres, information availability, safety and security, and carrying capacity, in order to promote sustainable tourism.
- Financial access (through banking and micro financing channels) should be provided at low interest rates, especially for small and medium entrepreneurs including women.
- All governments in their tourism policies should give special incentives for environment friendly investments and practices.
- Encouraging greater tourism exchanges among South Asian countries, including through improved connectivity, easier access (visa facilitation), development of portals and websites for access to updated information.
- The delegates from each country identified specific projects and issues in their respective countries, to be implemented in a time bound manner and to be presented at the next conference :
- Afghanistan : Bamiyan Buddha should be re constructed to reinstall the pride of history among its people as a great tourism asset. Eco-Tourism is a critical sunrise industry for Afghanistan after decades of war and destruction. All collaborations and assistance from SWAN countries are welcome.
- Bangladesh : Declare Sylhet as an Eco-Tourism zone and promote tea estate development.
- Bhutan : The development of tourism products be accelerated in Southern and Eastern Bhutan.
- India : Each state should create Eco-Tourism Boards. Eco-Tourism should be actively promoted the Chambal region, which should be declared a World Heritage Site.
- Maldives : Strengthen the arts and crafts of the local people and create a market for this among the hospitality industry.
- Myanmar : The government should evolve a policy to support the development of Tourism with specific reference to small entrepreneurs, to revive their heritage of Myanmar.
- Nepal : Promote organic food and goods in the hospitality and trekking industry.
- Pakistan : Integrate the Buddhist sites in Pakistan into the Buddhist tourist trail across South Asia.
- Sri Lanka : Establish Agro Tourism, managed solely by women, to be coordinated by the Sri Lanka Eco-Tourism Foundation.
All participants agreed to convene the second SWAN Eco-Tourism Workshop in 2015, and committed themselves to working towards early implementation of the recommendations.
Signatories : Participants in SWAN’s Eco-Tourism Workshop
BhutanMs. Chhimmy Pem 2Ms. Kesang Tshomo 3Ms. Chimi Yuden 4Mr. Phuntsho Gyaltshen 5Dr. Karma Tshering 6Ms. Sonam Choden 7
IndiaMs Veena Sikri 8Mr. Mandeep Singh Soin 9Mr Rakesh Mathur 10Ms Sarita Kumari 11
NepalMs. Yankila Sherpa 12Mr. Deepak Dorje Tamang 13Ms. Ambica Shrestha 14Ms. Indira Shrestha 15MyanmarMs. Yin Myo Su 16MaldivesMs. Mariyam Rifga 17Sri LankaMr. Palitha Gurusinghe 18BangladeshMs. Regina Nasser 19AfghanistanMs. Mina Sherzoy 20ICIMODMs Chanda Guring Goodrich
August 31- September 1, 2014
0845Registration at the Eco-Tourism Workshop Venue at Tarayana Hall, Chubachu, Thimpu0930Arrival of Chief Guest, H.E. Hon’ble Minister for Agriculture and Forest0935Marchang Ceremony0945Welcome Address by Ms Chhimmy Pem, Director, Tourism Council of Bhutan
0950Address by Chanda Gurung Goodrich, Gender Specialist, ICIMOD, Kathmandu0955Address by Professor Veena Sikri, Convener, SWAN1005Address by the Chief Guest1020Vote of Thanks1025Refreshments and Group Photo with the Chief Guest1045Introduction by Facilitator, Mr Mandip Singh Soin, and some examples of best international practices1105Country presentations on Best Practices/Case Studies
Afghanistan : Mina Sherzoy “Heritage Tourism in Afghanistan”
Bangladesh : Regina Nasser “Equitable Partnership in an Eco-tourism Initiative”
Bhutan: Phuntsho Gyaltshen “Tourism and Community Development in Bhutan”,
Kesang Tshomo “Organic Farming and Potential for Ecotourism”,
1200Question and Answer session1230Lunch1330Country presentations continued
India: Rakesh Mathur “Safe, Honourable and Sustainable Tourism in India”
Sarita Kumari “Ecotourism Helping Women in Ghanerao, Rajasthan”
Maldives: Mariyam Rifga “Women’s Empowerment, Conservation of the Environment and Sustainable Use of Natural Resources”
Myanmar: Yin Myo Su “My Experiences with Ecotourism at Inle Lake, and Myanmar Government’s policies for Community Involvement in Sustainable Tourism” 1430Question and Answer session1500Tea break1530Sightseeing (Tashichhoedzong and Kuenselphodrang)1st September 19, 2014, 0900Country presentations continued
Nepal: Deepak Dorje Tamang “Eco-tourism in the Rasuwa Himal: A Case of Tamang Heritage Trail and the benefits of Participation by local women in Home stay and Cultural Eco-tourism”
Yankila Sherpa “The Impact of Eco tourism on the lives of Women in the Himalayas, with a special case study of ecotourism in the Helambu village of Nepal”
Ambica Shrestha “Our Eco-organic Farm and Tourism Development”
”Sri Lanka: Palitha Gunasinghe “Ecotourism in Sri Lanka : Supporting women by creating Livelihood Opportunities through Sustainable Ecotourism Enterprises”1000Question and Answer session1030Summing up1045Tea Break1100Introduction/identification of focus areas for potential development and collaboration1130Group formation and brainstorming session1230Lunch1330Group Report Presentation1430Draw up an action plan and next steps1530Facilitator sums up and closes the workshop1930Inaugural and Welcome Dinner for the SWAN Annual Conference
List of Participants in the Ecotourism Workshop
Ms Mina Sherzoy,
Deputy Chief of Projects,
Ms Regina Nasser
DuSai Resorts and Spa
Ms Chhimmy Pem
Tourism Council of Bhutan
Ms Kesang Tshomo
National Organic Programme,
Ms. Chimi Yuden,
Tourism Council of Bhutan
6.Mr. Phuntsho Gyaltshen,
Tourism Officer, Tourism Council of Bhutan
7.Mr. Karma Tshering ,
Nature, Recreation Eco-Tourism Division,
Tourism Council of Bhutan
8.Ms Sonam Choden,
Bhutan Homestay, Paro
9.Ms Veena Sikri,
Professor & Ambassador,
Convener SWAN (South Asia Women’s Network)
South Asia Foundation (SAF-India)
10.Mr Mandip Singh Soin, FRGS, (Facilitator of the Workshop),
Founder President, Ecotourism Society of India (ESOI),
Founder and Managing Director,
Ibex Expeditions, New Delhi
11. Mr Rakesh Mathur,
Hony Secretary, Ecotourism Society of India,
Director & Principal Advisor,
Zinc InVision Hospitality/ Speciality Restaurants Ltd,
12.Ms Sarita Kumari,
Social Activist and Resort Owner,
13.Ms Mariyam Rifga,
Environment Protection Agency (EPA)
Ministry of Environment and Energy,
14.Ms Yin Myo Su
Inle Heritage Hospitality Vocational Training School
& Founder Inthar Heritage House, Inle Lake
15. Ms Yankila Sherpa
Former Minister of State of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Government of Nepal,
16. Ms Ambica Shrestha,
President, The Dwarika’s Group of Hotels and Resorts,
17. Mr Deepak Dorje Tamang,
18.Ms Indira Shrestha,
Sri Lanka :
19. Mr Palitha Gurusinghe,
Sri Lanka Ecotourism Foundation,
15-16 ‘Water Front’, Kahapola Madapatha,
20.Dr. Chanda Gurung Goodrich, Senior Gender Specialist, ICIMOD
Hotel for Eco-Tourism Workshop Participants
Hotel Dorji Elements
P.O. Box 1006, Chubachu, Thimphu
Phone Number: +975 2 333012 / 333075
List of Papers/ Case-Studies Presented
(i) Deepak Dorje Tamang (Nepal) “Eco-tourism in the Rasuwa Himal: A Case of Tamang Heritage Trail and the benefits of Participation by local women in Home stay and Cultural Eco-tourism”.
(ii) Yankila Sherpa (Nepal) : “The Impact of Eco tourism on the lives of Women in the Himalayas, with a special case study of ecotourism in the Helambu village of Nepal” .
(iii) Yin Myo Su (Myanmar) “My Experiences with Ecotourism at Inle Lake, and Myanmar Government’s policies for Community Involvement in Sustainable Tourism”
(iv) Palitha Gunasinghe (Sri Lanka) “Ecotourism in Sri Lanka : Supporting women by creating Livelihood Opportunities through Sustainable Ecotourism Enterprises”
(v) Rakesh Mathur (India) “Safe, Honourable and Sustainable Tourism in India”
(vi) Regina Nasser (Bangladesh) “Equitable Partnership in an Eco-tourism Initiative”
(vii) Ambica Shrestha (Nepal) “Our Eco-Organic Farm and Tourism Development”
(viii)Mina Sherzoy (Afghanistan) “Heritage Tourism in Afghanistan”
(ix) Sarita Kumari (India) “Ecotourism Helping Women in Ghanerao, Rajasthan”
(x) Mariyam Rifga (Maldives) “Women’s Empowerment, Conservation of the Environment and Sustainable Use of Natural Resources”
(xi) Phuntsho Gyaltshen (Bhutan) “Tourism and Community Development in Bhutan”,
(xii) Kesang Tshomo (Bhutan) “Organic Farming and Potential for Ecotourism”.