Elevating Bhutan’s River Rafting Standards to International Levels

In an effort to bolster the expertise of river rafting guides and ensure the safety and quality of adventure tourism experiences in Bhutan, a groundbreaking collaboration has taken place. Spearheaded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Department of Tourism (DoTr), XPLORE Bhutan, and Adventure Consultancy, a transformative two-week training and assessment initiative has concluded successfully.

The primary goal of this initiative was to certify Bhutanese river rafting guides to meet stringent international standards. The training, which focused on International River Guide Training (IRGT) and Rescue-3 techniques, was designed to equip local guides with the skills necessary to navigate rivers responsibly and ensure the safety of both tourists and the environment.

Funded through a co-financing arrangement involving UNDP BIOFIN and XPLORE Bhutan, the program saw the participation of ten dedicated river rafting guides from XPLORE Bhutan and Lotus. Following an intensive training regimen in Punakha, eight of these guides emerged successful in the assessment and were awarded international certification.

Beyond simply elevating individual guides’ skills, this initiative holds broader implications for Bhutan’s adventure tourism sector. The certified guides will now serve as trainers and assessors, cascading their knowledge down to their peers and ensuring a sustainable pool of internationally accredited guides in the country.

Moreover, stakeholders ranging from the forest department to disaster management officials stand to benefit from this initiative. By adhering to international standards, river rafting activities in Bhutan will not only become safer but also contribute to biodiversity conservation efforts and promote responsible ecotourism practices.

Two guides who did not meet the assessment criteria were also certified and will undergo further training to prepare for future assessments. This commitment to continuous improvement underscores the dedication of Bhutan’s adventure tourism community to upholding the highest standards.

The training was facilitated by international experts from Adventure Consultancy, bringing world-class knowledge and techniques to Bhutan’s riverbanks. The selection of participants was based on their experience and adherence to strict criteria, ensuring that only the most qualified individuals received certification.

With their credentials now registered in global databases, the eight certified river guides are poised to showcase Bhutan’s natural beauty to adventurers from around the world. As the Department of Tourism looks to expand rafting services to other parts of the country, these guides will play a pivotal role in shaping Bhutan’s reputation as a premier destination for river rafting enthusiasts.

As of 2023, Bhutan boasted over 40 river rafting guides, with Punakha leading the way as the hub of this exhilarating activity. With the successful completion of this international certification initiative, Bhutan is not only raising the bar for adventure tourism but also safeguarding its pristine rivers for generations to come.

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