According to a report by Incredible India, in our country, the travel and tourism sector is estimated to create 78 jobs per million rupees of investment, which is a decent number to mention. It has to be agreed upon that India has a tourism potential of that of a monster; huge and phenomenal. And two things that can influence it the most is the cleanliness (hygiene/sanitation), and homestays. With the cleanliness drive given so much of boost in the country and incessantly discussed, homestays are what my thoughts stopped at while thinking what to address on this World Tourism Day which has the theme – International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.
It was probably at the beginning of the first quarter of this year, 2017, I happened to stumble upon a post on how Uttarakhand is promoting Homestay Movement to put a curb on migration. In what is said to be an epidemic for more than a decade in the state, migration has been taken lives of the hard to access villages and less fertile lands. The reason, absence of the money making source, and thus abandonment. Luckily along with the Government and few locals who opened their eyes to this grave danger, resulted in converting of many houses in the villages in both Garhwal and Kumaon regions into homestays. Yes, this brought a decent money to the host and plenty of experience to the tourists. The two homestay initiatives in Uttarakhand that caught my attention were Kuti Village in Pithoragarh and Goat Village Near Mussoorie. These were built to fulfil two completely different objectives with Kuti Village Homestays catering to the needs of the pilgrims visiting Adi Kailash, and Goat Village selling local goat products. However, if at all one go out there to decipher the similarity between the two, then the roots will take him back to sustainable tourism and of course, giving the locals reasons enough to not to migrate. The homestay movement in Uttarakhand has gained speed, and while we are heading towards the end of here 2017, I do notice a plethora of these accommodation options mushrooming at some popular tourist places in the state as well. Hoping for the state’s Good Future!
Sikkim seems to have estimated the potential of homestay movement much earlier than Uttarakhand. It was in 1995 that the Pastanga Village in the state signed up for Homestay Movement followed by Lachen, Kewzing, Yuksom, Rey Mindu, Dzongu, Hee-Bermiok, Naltam, and Lingee Payong. Between 2003 – 2009, these villages reflected the realization of the vision of eco and community tourism along with a visible impact on socio-economic aspect, with an increase in the ancillary incomes of the host families. Another major effect of the homestay movement was seen on the perception of the fragile ecosystem and its conservation on both, the local communities and the tourists. The movement contributed in preserving many old houses of the Lepchas, which were considered a gradually diminishing tribe. Homestays in Sikkim are also growing and we hope they get to change the tourism scenario in the state.
Ladakh today is probably, one of the most important tourist destination in India, and why it wouldn’t be, the region has so much and so unique to offer to the visitors. Back in time, when the NGO Snow Leopard Conservancy – India Trust (SLC-IT) approached locals in the remote village of Rumbak to open their house for visitors, who would have thought that this movement will change their lives forever, that too for some good. The people in Rumbak were struggling with poverty, harsh climatic conditions and the frequent invasions of Snow Leopards then. However, once the village people offered to host travellers, things completely changed for them, not only were these hosts able to provide an authentic Ladakhi experience to their guests but also got trained to keep their homes and surroundings clean, and a trick or two to keep their homes/loved ones safe from snow leopards. Today, in Ladakh, the homestay movement has extended to places like Hemis National Park, Valley, and Zanskar; giving both Ladakhi people and the tourists reasons enough to promote it.
While the report on how exactly homestays are contributing to the socio-economic development in Nagaland is yet to be presented, we as travellers, have a fair idea of what’s been cooking and smelling so good in this Northeastern state. Homestays are giving a boost to the tourism in Nagaland, and a large number of tourists thronging the state around Hornbill Festival is a good reflection of it. What has been fascinating the travellers in the state the most is the chance of spending time interacting with varied tribes in Nagaland that indeed has a lot to offer from their palette of culture, food, beliefs, and handicraft. Most of the visitors initially knew about the homestay proposition in and around Kohima, however, with the extension of this movement in the district of Mon, where stays the headhunting tribe of Angh, has allured a lot of people heading to this state for this one of its kind opportunity of staying with this tribe. While this remains, a one-sided assessment of the tourists visiting Nagaland, there are fair chances that the economy for the homestay hosts and their surroundings must have improved. We, surely realize that the Christian Missionaries have brought in a great deal of social development, however, the homestays likely to have contributed to keeping the culture and traditions of the locals intact, that too we believe immensely.
Similarly, homestays have been changing the face of tourism in parts of India. The locals in states like Goa, Maharashtra, Odisha, Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu, all have been gradually opening their homes to visitors, and are not only ensuring authentic holiday experience but a better living and complete socio-economic development. Therefore, in order to promote Sustainable Tourism in India, these homestays are integral assets that need to be promoted even more. Happy World Tourism Day to all! Let’s make the world a better place with sustainable tourism.