A homestay is a cultural exchange in which a person visiting or temporarily staying in another country lives with a family in the host country. There are home stays for short periods (one night or a weekend) and for longer periods.
Nepal Tourism Year 2011 is expected to attract one million foreign tourists. With 669 hotels including all categories and a combined capacity of 26,063 beds, this would mean a shortfall of 822 beds daily. The concept of homestay program is considered to be the best alternative to hotel accommodation in the hospitality industry. It is a unique opportunity based mostly in villages and away from urban towns. According to Prachanda Man Shrestha, CEO at NTB, “We are planning to mobilize local bodies like village development committees (VDCs) and district development committees (DDCs) and even co-operatives to manage lodges and home stay facilities.” A budget of Rs 30 million was allocated in the train people for quality homestay in rural areas. The concept has been launched with a working policy of five years for the time being. The working policy of homestay became effective from August 17, 2010.
Initially, the idea of homestay programs was floated so as to provide additional accommodation for the anticipated number of tourists visiting the country during Nepal Tourism Year 2011. However, the prime aim of homestay is to enhance rural people’s participation in the tourism sector. Two modalities have been planned: community homestay and private homestay. It is also believed that such homestay programs in rural areas will provide additional income for the locals.
Private homes in urban areas are also encouraged to allocate two rooms with two beds each for homestay purposes. Under the homestay idea, anybody who has a home with at least four rooms can use the empty rooms for tourists’ homestay. At the same time, the household should be able to give a taste of the local culture and food. As per the government rules for homestay, any house owner who would like to provide homestay accommodation at his home should register at the Local Homestay Management Committee. The house owner must be able to provide food cooked hygienically and with good facilities rooms. Accommodation packages and other charges are determined by the management committee.
The basic criteria are that the houses are able to ensure cleanliness and a safe and secure environment besides of course, adequate toilet and bathroom facilities. A house in an urban area can serve a maximum of four tourists per night. This is so as to minimize the impact of homestays on the business of regular hotels. As per guidelines put forward by the concerned authorities, tourists are to be served the same food that the homeowners consume. The guidelines also include a code of conduct for tourists as well. It requires tourists to dress in appropriate manner and to accept their hosts’ culture and traditions besides expecting them not to enter and leave homes after prescribed times. Further, they are advised to stay away from drugs and narcotics.
There was a fast response after the government brought regulations governing homestays in August 2010. Sirubari and Ghalegaon were the pioneer villages in this regard. Within the next six months, well over 50 commercial homestays homes had been registered with many more applications pouring in. Kathmandu too, has more than 10 community-based and two private homestay homes with a combined capacity to accommodate over 300 tourists. Kavrepalanchok has over 26 registered community-based homestay homes. Similarly, Chitwan, Makwanpur and Nuwakot have each about a dozen places to stay. Gorkha, Ilam, Palpa, Syangja, Kailali and Kalikot too are following close on their heels to register homestay homes.
Living in a Nepali village as a homestay guest is undoubted a quick way to get to know better the real Nepal. The planned daily cultural activities in such homestay homes will certainly be a major attraction for tourists.