The Fourth Royal Highland Festival took place on 23 and 24 October on the gentle hills above Laya village called Langothang and the celebration ground lies at an altitude of 4,000 meters above sea level.
The first Royal Highland Festival started in 2016, and since then the people in Laya have seen an increase in number of tourist visiting every year. The festival provided them with the platform to bring the community together once in a year and also to promote their local product.
Their excitement over the two-day festival is palpable as it also gives them the opportunity to earn good revenue. More tourists mean promotion of their culture, sale of their products and busy homestays and more income.
Gasa Dzongda, Rinzin Penjor, said that the festival has lots of positive impact in the community because they get to bring all the people together, not only from Gasa but also highlanders from Haa, Lingzhi, Trashigang and more. “This is the time where we are able to sell and promote our home produce to the tourist,” he added.
In addition, he also said that the festival brought in an increase in number of tourist, increase by more than 50 percent this year. When this happens, people can make good revenue out of it, with their homestay services, transportation by horses and selling their home made products.
They not only provide those services, he said, they become even more cautious about the environment and preservation of their culture. They have invited people from all the dzongkhags so that they can promote what they have produced.
During the festival, the dzongkhag coordinate and make all the things uniform, rate of homestay and transportation charges so as to avoid unnecessary over charging. A horse can be hired at Nu 800, however, the charges of homestay depends upon the size and services on offer.
Meanwhile, 26-year-old Dorji said that they get excited around this time, especially after the introduction of the festival. He said, “I am thankful to His Majesty The King for introducing such festival in Laya. Not only we can promote our culture and enjoy the festival, we can also see many tourists visiting Laya every year.”
He said that seeing more tourists helps them in making good revenue. They do not have other means to make revenue, and therefore, increasing in the number of tourists would really help them in making good income, he added.
Similarly, Aum Kinley, owner of one of the homestay at Laya, shared that they are able to make Nu 40,000 and more in two days. However, it depends upon the number of people, if the number is huge they can earn well and vice versa. “Many tourists stayed in my homestay. We have a horse as well and that is another source of income for my family. When earning is good, we get encouraged and that makes us want to do more,” she said.
If tourism in Laya is promoted and encouraged in future, they would make a good income and that may keep the highlanders at their respective places forever, she added.
Tshering Pemo, 36, said that after knowing the positive impact of increase in number of tourists, she turned her house into a homestay which earns her Nu 60, 000 to 70,000 in a year.
She said, “I feel blessed because I got to see His Majesty The King and other Royal Family Members, So this festival has brought so much of happiness to us and I hope it gets better each year.