Nepal is the land of various communities, which have rich culture and tradition of their own. Many international tourists visiting the country want to know more about these communities. To know more about these people and their lifestyles, the best way is to stay together with the local them. The concept of homestays in Nepal has given an opportunity for tourists to stay with the local people and interact with them.
Sirubari of Syangja district is considered to be the first settlement to launch homestay facility for tourists. Many domestic as well as foreign tourists had enjoyed the service at Sirubari, a typical Gurung settlement, during the first national tourism campaign—Visit Nepal Year 1998.
Since then, many tourism entrepreneurs have started realising the need to develop model villages known for their natural and cultural richness. Villages like Ghandruk, Sirubari, Ghalegaon, Dhampus, Sikles, Lwang Ghalel, among others, have already become popular homestays among international tourists.
In homestays, visitors get an opportunity to stay with the local, ethnic groups. This provides them a good chance to understand the people living there for centuries. Many backpackers and researchers find homestays extremely useful as they can directly interact with the local people. This helps them to collect information they want. Moreover, staying in homestays is not only cheaper but also full of excitement. Another added advantage is homestays do promote the use of local resources.
Because of ongoing popularity of homestays in the country, many Nepali youths prefer to stay in their villages and utilise local resources for making their livelihoods possible. However, awfully, every year several Nepali youths go abroad, especially the Gulf nations where they work under hazardous conditions. However, living with their families and making a decent income at homes is always a better option than working abroad. In the past, most of the rural areas of the country were poverty ridden, but today things are rapidly changing. In places where homestays are popular, life is much better than other places. Many parents who are running homestays are able to send their children to good schools in nearby cities. Improved financial situations of these rural areas will definitely bring more prosperity for them in days to come. At the same time, homestays will provide more job opportunities in the rural areas.
It is worth mentioning that the Government of Nepal has taken keen interest in promoting homestays in most suitable places across the country. The Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), in coordination with district coordination committees, municipalities, rural municipalities and cooperatives, helps local communities run homestay facilities. It provides training to the concerned communities for ensuring quality and standard of homestays. NTB encourages local people to take part in tourism activities thereby uplifting their financial status.
At present, there are two kinds of homestays-- community homestays and private homestays. To govern and implement homestays, a homestay guideline is in place. According to the guideline, homestays require the hosts to serve mostly homegrown foods. The foreigners should also be entertained with their own traditional cultural songs and dances.
It is also mandatory for the participating houses to ensure proper cleanliness and safe environment where toilet and bathroom facilities must be well managed. Use of any kind of drugs forbidden by the law must not be used either by the foreign tourists or by the hosts. In recent years, many more homestays have come into existence. For instance, Kathmandu has over 10 community-based homestays, two private homestays. Both can accommodate over 300 tourists. Likewise, Kavrepalanchok district has over 26 registered community-based homestays. Chitwan has at least 10, Makawanpur has 11 and Nuwakot has 12. Places like Gorkha, Ilam, Palpa, Syangja, Kailali and Kalikot are also in the process of registering homestays.
The new concept of homestay has been successfully implemented in Sirubari and Ghalegaon. Nowadays, the number of registered homestays has been on the constant rise. These facilities are sure to be helpful for the impending Visit Nepal Year 2020. The country plans to welcome two million foreign tourists by 2020.
Seeing ongoing popularity of homestays, it is certain that many new villages from all parts of the country are expected to join the homestay programme in days to come.
Homestays have provided an opportunity to welcome more foreign visitors who are open to experience Nepali culture and tradition directly. Besides, they can be familiar with hidden trails and valleys.
Homestays are getting popularity in Terai, hills as well as well as the mountain region. However, homestays are still in their development phase. So, much remains to be done to meet the expectation of international tourists. Actually, homestays are focused on budget travellers. They can spend less money but will be able to explore more. This is the reason why nowadays more and more tourists opt for homestays.
Tourists living in homestays always receive firsthand knowledge to know more about real Nepal. In recent years, some homestays have become exceptionally successful in attracting more foreign travellers.
Actually, when increasing demand of more beds in hotels and guesthouses became increasingly short, the concept of homestays was born. International travellers did also enjoy by experiencing local livelihoods and host community’s cuisine, dance, music, social interactions and other interesting activities.
Because of homestays, not only host villages even the neighboring ones are also benefited. At a time when regular supply of the items like vegetables, milk, meat, etc. are run out, these products are purchased from nearby villages. So, available resources of the nearby villages are also utilised. This kind of practice encourages communal harmony and sharing benefits on mutual basis.
Another interesting fact is that earlier many young men who had left villages to look for greener pastures have now started returning to their villages and getting engaged in homestays. They are found living with their families and welcoming to foreigners is a job that is more satisfied and fuller.
The homestays have provided ample opportunity to Tharu community of Nepal as well. Traditionally, this community was extremely backward and riddled with poverty. But, when this community has involved in homestays, there is a remarkable change in their lifestyle.
Without doubt, homestays have proved to be an extremely beneficial venture. They have helped in creating job opportunities for several village people. This has enabled them to provide better education and a quality life for their children.
Another benefit of homestays is that nowadays more villages are working together and they are giving business to each other. This has given an opportunity to people to utilise local resources to the fullest. To sum up, the future of homestays in Nepal is very bright with the tourism industry becoming a mainstay of the national economy. The country is home to many communities and each community is distinct from others. The lofty Himalayas, craggy hills and beautiful plains in Nepal create unique ambience to make the country a remarkable tourist destination in the world.
(Thapa contributes to TRN regularly)
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