The Royal Highland Festival (RHF) has benefited highlander communities especially the Laya community immensely.
During the festival, the Layaps makes huge income through homestays, porter-pony services and selling yak products.
In a year, every household earns an average of Nu 50,000 to Nu 80, 0000 from home stay services.
The festival attracts not only international tourists but also the locals.
The Laya Gup, Lhakpa Tshering said that the festival has benefited the community of Laya.
“Before we could not connect with any of the highlanders, now we can connect with other highlanders and get to know about their society and culture,” said the Laya Gup.
The Gup said that over the years, the number of tourists visiting Laya has increased. “It has improved the people’s hygiene and taught the highlanders how to deal with outsiders.”
He said that though the main cash crop of Layaps is cordyceps it also helps people to earn income from homestays and porter-pony services.
Each homestay would cost Nu 800 for each person per night and Nu 800 for porter-pony services.
The Director General of Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB), Dorji Dhradhul said that the RHF not only attracts international tourists but even Bhutanese from other regions.
He said that it brings direct and indirect benefits to the people. The direct benefit is generating revenue to the people.
“The indirect benefit for the people would be government investment on building infrastructures like road and bridges and coming of telecommunication services.”
He also said that the festival creates awareness among the people on different civil society organizations.
He said in 2015 there was no telecommunication service but now the progress of development is rapid.
He said that every home is used as home stay because but there is only one certified home stay at Laya. The authorities allow it as there is no other option when tourists visit.
Every festival, around 30 to 50 houses are used as home stays.
According to records maintained with the TCB, the number of tourists who visited Gasa in 2016 was 526, in 2017, 1,921, in 2018, 669 and in 2019, d805 tourists.
Kinley, 33, from Pazhi village said that tourism brings them direct revenue and benefits them hugely.
“We earn income from homestays service and porter-pony services while they learn about the highlanders and their lifestyle.”
According to the visitor experience report of 2018 of Royal Highland festival survey conducted by Royal Institute of Management, in 2018, 48 international tourists visited. A total of 442 tourists visited so far.
The report reveals that the average expenditure per person during the festival would be around Nu 15,500 for local tourists and Nu 70,000 for international tourists.
The expenditure was calculated by visitors estimating the amount spent on items such as local transport, accommodation, food and beverages and souvenirs among others but excluded international airfare and other non-local festival costs.
RHF is being conducted at Laya, Gasa annually. The festival is a two-days event and was first conducted in October of 2016 as an initiative of His Majesty, The King. It was subsequently conducted in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
The festival is jointly organized by the Gasa Dzongkhag, the department of Livestock in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, and the Laya-Highland community; and with considerable support from His Majesty’s secretariat.
The festival site operates at Langothang, an open and generally flat pasture at an elevation of 4,000m, and is located several hundred meters from the village of Laya.
Dechen Dolkar from Laya