The Royal Highland Festival that promotes and celebrates the unique cultural heritage of the highland communities of Bhutan also serves yet another important purpose. Since its inception in 2016, the festival has given the remote Layap communities with the much-needed opportunity to supplement their income through homestay accommodations. The festival attracts many domestic and international tourists. And without any hotels in the area, homestays are the preferred lodging option for visitors.
During the recent Royal Highland Festival, more than 500 visitors stayed in the homestays.
The homestays can accommodate a minimum of five to around 15 guests depending on the size of the house.
All the houses have modern amenities including flush toilets and clean drinking water.
“I came to Laya in the past as well. There is no problem with accommodation here. And the homestays have clean toilets. Moreover, all the rooms are neat and clean. I did not find any problem,” said Rinchen Dema, a visitor from Sakteng Gewog.
“House owners are serving us the meals as per our desire. I am happy. Moreover, this year, the footpaths are also well maintained which is convenient,” said Gyembo Tshering, a visitor from Lunana Gewog.
It is a win-win situation where the visitors are welcomed with satisfying services, and the homestay owners can earn thousands of ngultrum.
“It has been three years since I started the homestay. I had eight guests this time which earned me around Nu 25,000. The guests were saying that they were happy with the service compared to the past few years,” said Tshering Pemo, a homestay owner.
“Visitors are happy to see many more new houses with better facilities in the gewog. Everybody is returning home appreciating our service and happy with their stay in our village,” said Kinley Dorji, another homestay owner.
“We have to serve two meals in our homestay. The guests are served lunch from the event. We only serve breakfast and dinner. Regarding the charges, if the number of guests is less than five, each will have to pay Nu 1,000 per night. But if the number exceeds five, we charge only Nu 800 per person. The establishment of homestay has benefitted all the people,” said Singye Wangchuk, who runs a homestay.
To further boost their income and improve their living standard, the government provided funds to construct toilets, proper horse stable for the safety of guests and concrete footpaths within the villages.
The government has spent Nu 6 M during the 12th Five-Year-Plan while the Department of Tourism funded Nu 3 M for the construction of flush toilets.
“In the second phase, along with the local leaders and engineer, we carried out a survey to construct the concrete footpath connecting all the houses. We proposed around Nu 20 M in the 130th Lhengye Zhungtshog which was approved. The Cabinet Secretary also ordered the district administration to complete all the works in 2024-2025 financial year,” said Tenzin, Khatoed-Laya MP.
Located at over 3,800 metres above the sea level, Laya Gewog has around 1,200 people.