Culture & TraditionIssue 2LifestyleNepal

Homestays – Alternative Style Accommodation

Homestays can be seen as a much better alternative to conventional hotel accommodation, providing a great opportunity for visitors to experience local culture and lifestyle firsthand.

Homestay tourism is becoming very popular in Nepal. During 2011’s Nepal Tourism Year (NTY 2011) it was realised that with an estimated number of around 26,000 beds in 669 registered hotels if one million tourists were to visit Nepal as hoped, there would be a shortfall of over 800 beds per day. So, even if NTY 2011 wasn’t quite as successful as hoped, it gave impetus to many positive initiatives, including the development of more homestay accommodation in various parts of the country, including newly developed tourist destinations.

Homestays can be seen as a much better alternative to conventional hotel accommodation, providing a great opportunity for visitors to experience local culture and lifestyle firsthand.

Nepal’s homestays are mainly found in small villages, out in the countryside where life is simple and basic: a refreshing change from the hassles of urban life. Nepal Tourism Board mobilised the local village development committees (VDCs), district development committees (DDCs) and local cooperatives to set up homestay facilities and provide training to host families. As well as providing more accommodation, the prime objective of the homestay initiative was to get local people involved more in various aspects of tourism and provide alternative sources of income.

In Nepal, there are two main kinds of homestays: community and private. The host families are expected to provide guests with a taste of the local culture, serving the kind of food the host family would normally eat themselves, and giving an insight into the village way of life. The homestay needs to be clean, providing adequate toilet and bathroom facilities, whilst in return, guests are expected to respect local customs and dress in an appropriate way.

The villages of Sirubari and Ghalegaon were amongst the first to implement homestay programmes. Many others followed suit with support from DFID, UNDP, SNV and GTZ for example, where tourism development in five regions was provided. Kavrepalanchok now has over 26 registered community-based homestay homes. Chitwan has at least 10, and Makwanpur and Nuwakot each have around a dozen. Gorkha, Ilam, Palpa, Syangja, Kailali and Kalikot too have homestay programmes.

WWF is working with village communities to develop similar initiatives in Bardiya, close to the national park in the Terai. Another project in the Annapurnas has seen Mahabir Pun working with the communities of where he comes from to set up community-based tourism. A Magsaysay award winner, Pun has also connected the villages to the world by wireless technology, as well as developing community lodges and homestays in the villages to help the communities to be more self-sustaining. The focus is particularly on creating employment opportunities, empowering local people and improving children’s chances to go to school.

Viable waste management programme

Viable waste management programme

Elsewhere in the Himalayas, homestay tourism has been around for some time. In Sikkim, Yuksam is a village close to the sacred mountain, Mount Kanchenchunga. Here the Kanchenchunga Conservation Committee (KCC) has been working with families to develop not only homestays but a viable waste management programme, where the waste, from treks, is returned to the village for recycling and disposal. Working with WWF, KCC is also looking at ways to encourage the use of solar power instead of burning wood and are looking to equip the homestays and local hospital with solar panels.

Next door to Nepal, Sikkim is the only state in India with an ethnic Nepali majority. As well as Nepali, 10 other official languages are spoken, including many of the ethnic languages from Nepal, as well as Lepcha and Bhutia. It counts as one of the most spiritual places in India and still keeps strong its Buddhist character. Nearly 40 percent of Sikkim is forested, making it one of the most unspoilt and pristine areas in India.

Sikkim-Homestay-Family

Sikkim-Homestay-Family

Similarly, over the other side of the Indian Himalayas in Ladakh, homestays have perhaps been going longest. Homes in villages have been successfully hosting visitors who can trek from one place to the next, along trekking routes lasting from 2-3 days to a week or longer.
Staying with a family as a village homestay guest is an excellent way to really get close to the country and the people and is an unforgettable experience.

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