Manali: Popularity of home stay accommodation has caught the fancy of tourists visiting Kullu Manali valley and at places outrun luxury star category hotels. Having no off-season impact, home stay units are drawing heavy bookings and even are advance booked for weeks.
HolidayIQ.com, a highly rated travel website, on its web pages recommends that there are 17 hidden home stays one could choose from Instead Of those Fancy Luxury Hotels. For Kullu, the website recommends Manali Meadows, ranked 8th in country and first for Kullu-Manali valley.
The quiet tucked away staying place in the serene Beas River valley, Manali Meadows has even been awarded as the best Homestay unit of the Himachal Pradesh by Himachal Pradesh University. A survey by the universities Master of Tourism Administration (MTA) had found Manali Meadows as the best rural destination.
In all there are 225 home stay units registered in Kullu-Manali valley.
The Apple House, Tree Top Cottage and Hamta House home stay units too are attracting larger number of tourists each year because of their personalized hospitality and location advantage. Most of the units in Kullu claim that they do not have any effect of off-season and getting regular guests.
Where most hotels in Manali are reporting only 20 percent occupancy and are reeling under lean season conditions, most home stays are saying that they are packed and are doing brisk business.
Speaking about his experience in a home stay Astrid, a Danish national says “The thing I loved the most is home cooked food and the home comfort environment.
“Besides the place gives the real feel of an Indian village,” he added.
To disperse tourism into rural areas the Himachal Pradesh government had launched the ‘Homestay’ scheme about 5 years ago. Objective of the scheme was to increase the stay of tourists in the state.
As it is, every village of this hilly state has its own history, religious stories, customs, traditions, diversity in culture and cuisines. Homestay scheme has made it easier to interact with those things being a part of that village.
“The reason behind success of Manali Meadows Homestay unit is our ability to maintain a homelike environment complete with local traditions and customs. We even encourage our guest to participate in preparing local dishes by using farm fresh vegetables and other produce,” said Sunita, owner ofManali Meadows.
“Main objective of the scheme is to develop each village with tourism potential by having in place all basic amenities. Number of tourists visiting Himachal is increasing each year and already their number is exceeding that of the population,” says Rattan Gautam, district tourism development officer, Kullu and Lahaul.
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.