Homestay operators stare at reversal of fortunes

On Thursday night, Usha Antony, who has been running a homestay just a stone’s throw away from the Fort Kochi beach for the past 13 years, received a call from one of her regular clients from France.

That her client was cancelling travel plans in the wake of another lockdown in France was but the latest in a string of bad news since the outbreak of the pandemic in March when her homestay was shut.

The reopening of tourist destinations, including Fort Kochi beach, from Sunday has been received with little enthusiasm, coming as it does after yet another blow in the form of postponement of the Kochi Biennale to next year.

“We used to get regular clients, both domestic and international, during the Biennale, and we were looking up to it in this otherwise disastrous year. Now, even that hope stands dashed. Though we are ready to open from Sunday, there has been hardly any enquiries, forget about bookings,” said Ms. Antony.

The pandemic has been extremely harsh, especially on West Kochi, as it ended up with a slew of containment zones owing to large-scale virus spread.

“Homestays have been permitted to admit visitors for not more than seven days, but it remains to be seen as to how many operators in the highly dense West Kochi with families, including children and aged, will be enthusiastic about receiving visitors. Such concerns are relatively few for homestays in the eastern suburbs of the district,” said M.P. Sivadattan, director, Kerala Homestays and Tourism Society (Kerala HATS).

However, Nidhin Narayanan, a homestay operator at Thrikkariyoor near Kothamangalam, is reeling under the maintenance cost running into lakhs of rupees, even as he makes last-minute preparations for reopening. “We have been receiving enquiries, though most of them are for one-day gatherings with no overnight stay. We have decided not to accommodate extra beds in rooms or serve food initially,” he said.

The pandemic has also thwarted plans of prospective entrepreneurs like George T.J., who has been planning to open a homestay in Kothamangalam this season but has now postponed it to next year.

Though the Thattekad Bird Sanctuary is among the tourist destinations set to reopen, Joseph M.M., who runs a homestay within its buffer zone, is far from enthusiastic, since his primary target remains serious bird and wildlife enthusiasts, especially from abroad, and photographers rather than lay revellers. “Ours is an eco-friendly campus that enhances surrounding biodiversity and is meant for those who can appreciate it,” he said.

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Printable version | Nov 23, 2020 10:45:28 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/homestay-operators-stare-at-reversal-of-fortunes/article32986863.ece

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