Public rest houses, a drain on exchequer

Success of ‘home stay tourism’ hinges on travelers seeking alternative accommodation to regular hotels along roads less traveled and going by the huge bills the government has piled up to maintain its rest houses – fetching very little revenues in return, the scheme may just get a fillip from the drain these public rest houses are proving to be.

Through a question raised by Rajesh Dharmani in the Himachal Vidhan Sabha during the monsoon session, Gulab Singh Thakur, public works minister (PWD) in a written reply informed the house that to maintain and repair the 680 circuit and rest houses that the state has, which includes some heritage status forest and PWD rest houses located in some of the most scenic places, the government over the last three years spent Rs 22.85 crore. During the same period, revenues earned from housing VIPs and tourists in these public properties fetched revenue of Rs 5.18 crore only.

“Operating these guest houses with such little returns,” says Vinayak Jisthu – owner of a hotel, “is a sheer wastage of public money.” Many Indian and foreign tourists come looking for quiet getaways but in peak season when one tries linking up with these rest houses, they are booked all summer for housing some VIP or the other, he added.

“The rest houses are not there as commercial properties,” says a PWD official, “because one of their main functions remains to provide transitory accommodation to visiting officials for administrative and other purposes to discharge their duties.” He adds, “sometimes they are also used to house state guest dignitaries.”

We have launched home stay scheme with the twin objective to disperse tourism activity from congested urban hill stations into rural areas and to strengthen rural economies by generating jobs in the service sector, says Manisha Nanda, secretary tourism.

Being optimistic that the home stay scheme will succeed, she denies that it has been launched because the government has failed to provide rest houses for tourism purposes. Government rest houses have other uses besides proving accommodation to tourists on availability but we have identified some forest rest houses which are being developed and would be marketed for eco-tourism, said Nanda.

Home stay concept is fast catching up in expanding tourism into rural areas, says Jisthu. But in many interior places it will take time for village tourism infrastructure to come up so that basic civic amenities can be added to house travelers.

“Why does the government not hand over some of these rest houses, especially the forest trail ones to professionals who can market and operate them getting better occupancy and revenues from them”, questions Jisthu!

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  1. says: Neha Chandok

    Where “home stay tourism” is undoubtedly a one of its kind scheme and bound to have more and more people depend on it, the rest houses being a government property is used as one.

    Rest houses have definitely become less of use to tourism and more of to the Babus, VIPs and their families!

    Privatization or taking them from a professional perspective may only help the government earn revenues from such properties!

  2. says: NITYIN

    Everyone seems to be taking the shorter route here. The rural tourism scheme seems to be a brain child of the foreign jaunts of the babus. Despite the fact on ground with little infrastucture and training the govt has gone ahead with the scheme. Also the idea is not sustainable as there are very few Indian tourists who would like to vacation in the rural houses as their idea of holiday is different with ‘all the things money can buy’ mentality. Foreigners may face problems

    a) Language being the biggest hurdle
    b) Obvious socio-relegious concerns about hosting people with different skin color and different food habbits. (Imagine the shock in the house hold if any one with a darker skin than we Indians were to stay in the house as a guest)

    What I fear is we may ultimately have Israilies finding their way in every nook and cornor of the state!

    Talking of private agencies, they are into this to make a fast buck. Without investing anything into the infrastucture they are on a prowl and eyeing govt rest houses to earn a quick buck in the name of adding revenue to the govt kitty. This is nothing but the typical lalaji kind of mentality. Depends how much the govt is keen for the revenues thus generated. I would prefer the far off places to remain away from “organised” tourism to maintain the calmness and cleanliness of the area. What tourism did to places like Shimla, Manali, Dharmshala etc is for everyone to see.

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