Shimla: By weaving agri-services with tourism, a â€˜Home Stayâ€™ initiative of providing visitors hygienic staying facilities in Sangla Valley of Kinnaur, where the tourist participates in the everyday activity of his host to reap an experience of native lifestyles has turned into a sustainable livelihood for early starters.
â€œWhat started out as an experiment has come to stay,â€ says Tej Pratap, vice chancellor Palampur Agriculture University.
â€œBased on the extremely popular rural home stay tourism of Switzerland,â€ he said, â€œthe success achieved in Sangla needs to be replicated elsewhere for empowering rural communities with sustainable means of livelihood.â€
As the Sangla Valley Sustainable Development Society which has a cluster of 50 home stay houses prepares to host the 3rd successive Sangla Valley Household Tourism Festival on 21-23 May, Pratap recounts that it was seed money from FiBL Switzerland, an international NGO, and a research thesis by researchers from Switzerland that has led to popularizing this concept rural tourism in such a scenic high altitude valley of Himachal Pradesh.
Implementation of the experiment was taken up by Himalayan Research Group (HRG), a local NGO and was supported by Palampur Agriculture University.
Vidya Karan Negi, chairman of the household tourism society says the 1st and 2nd festivals held in 2008 and 2009 was able to generate interest and bring about attitudinal changes in local people about the feasibility of tourism in Sangla valley that could run through existing living houses and local food.
Lal Singh, who heads HRG adds, awareness motivated large number of households to register themselves under the tourism promoted Home Stay Scheme.
Today as much as 20 % of total home stay facilities registered in the state are in Sangla valley itself, he claimed.
The festival to be inaugurated by Governor Urmila Singh would be a panorama of the tribal culture of Sangla, inclusive of cuisines, handicrafts, dance and music.
Stalls on display would showcase and sell organic fresh fruits, dry fruits, pulses, buckwheat, apricot oil, medicinal plants and other local agricultural produce.
Special souvenirs made by local artisans on wood would be put out for display and sale, says Lal Singh.
Local dance troupes from different parts would give live performances and also compete for prizes at the three day festival, he said.