Tek Bahadur Khatiwara, Programme Director at Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO), has over 17 years of practical work experiences implementing various sustainable tourism developmental projects, from villages to towns to tourism businesses. He is well versed in the field of ecological and sustainable tourism in the context of tourism development in Bhutan. As a Trans Bhutan Trail (TBT) Steering Committee member, Tek brings perspectives on tourism businesses and sustainable tourism projects to the development of the TBT. See Tek’s interview below to learn about his involvement with the Trans Bhutan Trail.
Q: Tell me how you first got involved with Trans Bhutan Trail and what was your first impression of this project?
A: Catherine (Project Director, TBT) came to the ABTO office to seek feedback on the Trans Bhutan Trail and that was when I heard about it in detail. Through our conversation Catherine felt the need to involve ABTO as partners as well as a member of the TBT Steering Committee considering its stake in tourism marketing and meaningful engagement of tour operators. That’s how I was involved in this project as a representative of ABTO. My first impression of the TBT project was ‘wow’. For the tourism industry, and in particular tour operation businesses, this was an opportunity to promote new products and packages. It will also further develop Bhutan globally as a unique travel destination.
Q: What has surprised or made you interested in working with Trans Bhutan Trail?
A: The passport component was a surprise for me. I have lots of ideas I would like to share with the TBT team to further benefit the project. The passport component is one of the areas where ABTO can make significant contribution for the benefit of TBT and tour operation businesses.
Q: What do you find most challenging about this project?
A: Sustainability of the trail is one of the most challenging aspects of this project. It has to be addressed collectively, responsively, and professionally.
Q: Tell me about some of the people you have met while working with TBT and what was their opinion about the trail restoration?
A: Apart from TBT team, I have met few officials from Trongsa Dzongkhag including Dasho Dzongda, Dasho Dzongrab, planning officer etc. They were positive about the trail restorations.
Q: What would you say are some of your strongest beliefs about this project?
A: I believe it as a pilot project. The developmental process itself is a new lesson and therefore, we must be careful and mindful to pave the way forward in order to make it a great success.
Q: When your friends/family finds out that you have volunteered in TBT, what do they say or ask you?
A: They appreciate and support me as this is one of the small ways that I can contribute to nation building.
Q: What would you tell someone who is thinking about donating and volunteering in this project?
A: I encourage them because this is an evolving and long term project that requires huge financial and technical support at different phases in fulfilling the aspirations of the TBT and staying responsive to the changing demand of market forces.
Q: What do you think will change about the old trails that TBT is restoring over the next five years?
A: The looks of the old trail will change considering the current status of restoration. So my advice would be to keep it simple and as traditional as possible so as to keep up the expectation of travelers and the community.
Q: How do you think that Trans Bhutan Trail contribute or can bring a positive change to the society?
A: It is through continuing engagement and involvement of the people, TBT can contribute or bring a positive change to the society.