Saturday, September 30, 2006

Stay at home in Kerala

Keralites are literally throwing open their doors to tourists, converting portions of their houses into 'homestays', to give visitors an authentic experience of life in this lovely state.

'Homestays' are expected to be the next big 'tourism product' coming out of Kerala, which has been ranked by national geographic as among the 50 'must see' destinations in the world.

'Hotels are the same all over the world. But, when you come and stay with a family under the same roof, maybe eat with them and share stories, the experience is totally different,' says Rani John Tharakan of Ayanat House.

Rani and husband John Tharakan began hosting people in their seven room, 70-year-old house in Alappuzha district last year. Three rooms are let out to tourists at a tariff of Rs 4,500 per day for a couple, including three meals and activities like boating and fishing.

Home-cooked meals are a big draw for tourists, who sometimes come into the kitchen to see how a particular dish is made, says Anuja Kurian, a catering institute graduate. She ends up giving informal cooking demonstrations to those staying at their home in the 154 acre Kalaketty rubber estate in Kanjirapally of Kottayam district.

Asked why they decided to open their home to outsiders, Rani says they were not using the entire house, in which a joint family once lived. They thought it would be nice to let it out to tourists. 'It keeps the place alive and of course brings in additional income.'

Anuja says privacy is ensured for both hosts and guests at their plantation as visitors are accommodated in an outhouse.

According to Thomas, whose parents run a homestay 'Nazarani Tharavad', some portions of which are more than 200 years old, hosting visitors is a good way for them to have company.

With Kerala beginning to face a shortage of rooms during peak tourist season, homestays could well be the answer. According to Jose Dominic, President, Kerala Travel Mart Society, the state needs to add at least 1,000 rooms every year to meet the demand-supply gap.

Homestays not only provide a solution to the accommodation problem but are also a tourism product by themselves. 'A lot of tourists, specially from the West, come to India looking for an authentic experience of the land and its people. They are not seeking five star luxury, only a clean and nice ambience, and homestays provide both.'

While people from other Indian states sometimes prefer a homestay, it is mostly foreigners who make a beeline for them.

According to Dominic, there are at present about 650 homestays in Kerala and their number is growing at about 20 per cent per year.

At the ongoing Kerala Travel Mart 2006 here, a large number of first time participants are homestay owners, he says.

While some homestay owners turn to travel agents, others have set up websites or are recommended by people who have stayed with them.


At 1:57 AM, Blogger Govind.K said...

i have read your have done a goood job by posting the matter,but i think that you have to give information more's long one and order wise it has some problem.


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