Bhutan: With Tourists Flocking To Laya For Royal Highland Festival, Locals Embrace Sustainable Tourism

by Shreya Rathod
Bhutan: With Tourists Flocking To Laya For Royal Highland Festival, Locals Embrace Sustainable Tourism

Even though the isolated town of Laya in Bhutan has long been known for its unspoiled natural beauty and magnificent vistas of the mountains, the village gained national attention when Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the King of Bhutan, started the Royal Highland Festival. Here’s how the locals are embracing ecotourism ahead of the festival.

Locals At Laya In Bhutan Are Embracing Sustainable Tourism

royal highland festival laya bhutan
Credits: Royal Highland Festival/ Facebook

With the aim of showcasing Laya’s distinctive highland culture and breathtaking scenery, the festival has successfully brought more than 2,000 people to this remote area of Bhutan. The popularity of the Royal Highland Festival has presented Laya with a big challenge: how to handle a large number of tourists while protecting the locals’ ecology, culture, and well-being.

The Bhutanese government defines ecotourism as responsible travel that promotes Gross National Happiness and follows a “high-value low-volume” tourist policy. Bhutan Live claimed that the principles of ecotourism hold the key to solving the problem. In order to accomplish this, the local community is closely involved in the Dzongkhag (district) and Gewog (block) administrations, which assign them tasks and ownership before, during, and after the celebration.

With this strategy, Laya can continue to reap the benefits of tourism while preserving its beautiful nature. October 13 was the start of the Royal Highland Festival preparations, which ran through October 20. We invited each home to provide a volunteer for two days, in shifts of two.

To demonstrate the village’s dedication to cleanliness, the kids, escorted by their teachers, went around the neighbourhoods with gunnysacks, gathering trash after the celebration. Furthermore, after the celebration ends, representatives from every home gather at Langothang, the festival site, to take down tents and tidy up the area.

Also Read: In A Bid To Attract More Tourists, Bhutan Plans To Reduce Costly Airfare, Decrease SDF & More

The volunteer group De-suups has also contributed by gathering rubbish from the festival area and transporting it to Wangdue for appropriate disposal.

Homestays, Porter Enterprises & Other Ventures!

royal highland festival laya bhutan
Credits: Royal Highland Festival/ Facebook

In addition, the community oversees the homestay and porter enterprises, benefiting from the venture together. Among the 280 families in Laya, 74 welcome tourists, offering a special chance for both foreign and Bhutanese visitors to live with Layap households, experience their daily routines and customs, and eat meals as a family.

To ensure fair pricing, Dzongkhag and Gewog committee members set modest homestay charges. The locals understand the value of protecting the environment. Pema Jamtsho, Laya’s mangmi, stressed the significance of preserving a clean environment. He stated that they must always preserve the pristine environment on their unspoiled property. People are always more than happy to take part in this endeavour.

Many Laya houses take advantage of the Royal Highland Festival as a chance to conduct brisk porter business. While porters typically charge Nu 800 (₹806) per horse, they only charge Nu 600 (around ₹604) for services relating to the festival, putting the visitor’s needs ahead of their financial gain. In addition to honouring Laya’s distinct culture and breathtaking natural surroundings, the festival is a model of ecological and ethical tourism.

Also Read: Bhutan Becomes World’s First Country To Completely Vaccinate & Sterilise Its Street Dogs

Laya preserves its natural and cultural legacy while remaining a popular destination for ecotourism and culture thanks to its strong community involvement, commitment to cleanliness, and embracement of ecotourism concepts.

Cover Image Courtesy: Royal Highland Festival/ Facebook

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