Maleeha Raghaviah

In Kozhikode, the response from stakeholders of home-stays is moderate

KOZHIKODE: Classification of home-stay facilities and added focus on convenience of tourists, especially those from abroad, are expected to give a fillip to tourism in the northern districts.

Home-stays are being projected as a way to achieve the goal of responsible tourism, under which the local community is being called upon to play a role in the tourism sector.

In a recent notification, the State Government has classified them as diamond, gold and silver, based on the conveniences provided.

Clear-cut guidelines, as are provided to hotels for star rating, have been notified on location, exterior, quality of rooms and bathrooms, communication facility, security, eco-friendly practices and so on.

U.V. Jose, Additional Director, Planning and Project, Tourism Department, said home-stays scoring 75 or more points would come under diamond, 60 to 75 points under gold and 50 to 60 under silver.

He said while the home-stay concept was yet to get the desired level of response from stakeholders in the northern districts, the Government would promote it in a big way in Malabar.

Providing comfortable accommodation to tourists was a major concern facing the department, and lack of availability of hotel rooms in cities and towns in the region was the reason for the department promoting the concept.

The income it would generate for local stakeholders, besides the cultural exchange, was the added incentive. Investment opportunities offered in the home-stay initiative were another noteworthy aspect.

"In the southern districts, the concept has picked up well. Maybe, it is the lack of adequate publicity that is the reason for few people coming forward with offers of home-stay in Malabar," Mr. Jose said.

Wayanad blooms

In Wayanad, however, the concept had picked up at a good level, with tourists arriving there to enjoy the picturesque surroundings. A home-stay was the ideal facility where the ambience could be enjoyed the most, as opposed to the commercial setting of a hotel room.

K. Raveendran, general secretary, Wayanad Tourism Organisation, says: "Under our organisation itself, there are 10-odd authorised home-stays.

Besides, the District Tourism Promotion Council has 50-odd authorised home-stay stakeholders. This was in addition to scores of others in Wayanad, who have offered home-stay facility to tourists, mainly domestic tourists."

Mr. Raveendran said the basic advantage of home-stays was that tourism would not damage the environment. Smallholders and planters in Wayanad who had to combat the vagaries of nature and fall in prices of agricultural commodities would benefit from offering home-stay accommodation. The Government must undertake marketing of home-stays. The interaction with tourists from abroad was an educative experience for the family, Mr. Raveendran said. He suggested that orientation programmes be conducted to improve the spoken English skills of those offering the facility.

"A working knowledge of English is vital, besides hygienic surroundings. We are working out a schedule that would include all these, besides the type of cuisine liked by foreigners. The WTO [World Tourism Organisation] is willing to take up the responsibility of conducting the orientation course for stakeholders."