In flourishing homestays, tourists experience the heart and soul of God’s Own Country
When in Rome, do as the Romans do, so goes the saying. Tourists from all over the world who visit Kerala want to do precisely as the Keralites do.
They prefer modest local homes to five-star accommodation. They freely mingle with the host families, relish local cuisine and have a first-hand experience of local customs and cultures, all at incredibly low prices.
Over the past few years, there is a phenomenal increase in homestay service providers in Kerala, in the wake of the new preference for experiential tourism. As Kerala is known for its multifarious cultural traditions, hospitality and mouthwatering cuisine, there is increasing interest among travelers to opt for homestays and experience the local ambience.
They stay in homestays with their family to live like the Keralites. Traditional home-cooked Kerala dishes are the main attraction of Kerala homestays. The guests are also free to take part in various household activities of the family. The visitors are mostly from the West, especially Germany, Britain and France, who prefer to stay with the locales to get a feel of the Malayalee lifestyle.
Homestays provide the travelers a safe, secure and caring home away from home, with all the comforts and facilities to enjoy the hospitality of the host family. Homestay is much cheaper than booking a room at a resort or hotel. Homestays charge as low as Rs.300 to Rs.5,000 a day, depending on the facilities that are offered.
Kerala has a rich history of hospitality that dates back to several centuries. The state hosted ancient foreign traders and engaged with them warmly. Homestays provide the travelers a taste of Kerala’s traditional hospitality.
There are around 1,000 homestays that are registered with the state Tourism Department. The unregistered homestays will come to almost double that number. The big players in the tourism industry are increasingly turning towards homestays.
Many homestays that have come up on the banks of the picturesque backwaters in Alappuzha, Kollam, Kochi, Kottayam etc provide the ambiance of traditional Kerala houses. Many homestays are located near well-known tourist spots like Munnar, Thekkady and Kovalam.
The facilities offered include Kerala style vegetarian food, fishing, Ayurvedic massage, cultural performances, bicycle ride, doctor on call, laundry service etc. Tourists who prefer to explore the village life in Kerala can look forward to a bullock cart ride, a visit to the local religious places, visit the local market to buy what they need and spend a quiet time in a serene atmosphere.
To cater to the increasing demand, many houses in Kerala, especially those located near tourist spots, double as homestays, which bring extra income to the households. Many ancient `tharavads’ (ancestral home) have turned into homestays. Parents who are left alone once their children are settled abroad too prefer to convert a portion of their house as homestays. Besides bringing supplementary income for the owners and the village community, such homestays also keep idle parents engaged.
The state Tourism Department has taken the initiative to form a separate body called Kerala State Homestay and Tourism Society (KeralaHATS) basically to serve as a consortium of homestay providers and tourism promoters for the effective co-ordination of tourism activities in Kerala and also to ensure qualitative and competitive service.
As the concept of homestay picks up momentum, Kerala is experiencing a spurt in tourists inflow. The changing trends in world tourism and the increasing interest in experiential tourism will give further fillip to homestays.
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