Manali: Home stay packages for a summer vacation in a country side cottage amidst orchards lands and surrounded by snow-clad Pir Panchal Himalayas in the lap of nature in Kullu-Manali valley is tourism with a difference that savors on local cuisine and folk culture.
Seeking out the exotic, beyond the mundane, more and more tourists headed into the valley are opting to stay in the secure, healthy and natural atmosphere of rural areas.
Tour operators say that search for newer destinations combined with uncorru0pted culture of the hills and friendly attitude of villagers is making the tourists land up in villages.
Sensing the changing trends in tourism from towns to villages, many villagers are applying and registering their households as home stay units.
Mushrooming concrete structures in towns, accompanied by pollution and noise are increasingly turning tourists towards villages, says Sunita, an owner of a home stay property.
“You can see that rooms in hotels are vacant, but most Home Stay units are occupied. Tastes of tourists are changing with time,” said Ved Ram, chairman of Himachal Home Stay Association, while speaking to Hill Post.
Accommodation in home stays is much cheaper than hotels and no luxury or service taxes are applicable.
“Tourists get fresh food and generally extend their stay. Staying in calm and serene atmosphere of villages’ help tourists to relax and fight the stress of modern living in healthy environs. They also get to know about how the villagers grow vegetables and grains, how they prepare for winters and also about their tough but simple living,” said Ram.
“Tourists love their stay with us. Generally, most of them learn ‘pahadi recipes’ from us and cook their food in our kitchen. Discuss our lifestyle and culture with them. We need no marketing, our guests refer their friends and relatives,” Sunita says who owns and runs Manali Meadows Homestay.
Not only home stays are promoting rural tourism but are also strengthening the economy of villages as consumption of products like milk, fruits and vegetables has increased manifold.
Home stay units are also attracting high end tourists from abroad. Naggar, Batahar, Sarsei, Karjan, Shanag, Simsa, Katrain, Tosh, Kasol, Jibhi, Aleo, Prini and Shuru, among others, are the most sort after villages in Kullu-Manali valley by overseas and high end tourists, say Ved Ram.
Vinay Dhiman, District Tourism Development Officer Kullu let Hill Post know that the ‘home stay scheme’, launched by the state government last year, has received great response from household owners and tourists alike.
Under the scheme, any resident can rent out a portion of his house to the tourists after getting the premises registered with the tourism department, says the official.
Dhiman disclosed that there were 196 private houses in Kullu district registered as Home Stays and most of these houses were located in the tourist hubs of Kullu- Manali.
Some of them are located in very scenic locales amid thick forests and the tourists simply take a fancy to natural environ setting, said Dhiman.
The ‘home-stay scheme’, is tailored around the union tourism ministry’s ‘Incredible India Bed and Breakfast Scheme’, that helps to generate self-employment opportunities for the local people and also helps to decongest urban areas, said the officer.
Photo: Sanjay Dutta
Sanjay Dutta, an engineer by qualification but is a journalist by choice.
He has worked for the premier new agency Press Trust of India and leading English daily Indian Express.
With more than a decade of experience, he has been highlighting issues related to environment, tourism and other aspects affecting mountain ecology.
Sanjay Dutta lives in a village close to Manali in Kullu valley of Himachal.