Travel has different motivations for different people. For most, though it is either leisure or business. Yet there are travellers who visit a country to study, to learn the culture or the arts and many for language. As an hotelier, I have met people who travel for practically all types of motives. What intrigued me most was a couple I met a few years back who were visiting India to learn and study the family values of people in different parts of the country.
My curiosity made me ask them what would they achieve and the reply was intelligently stunning. "Our mission is to have a world without boundaries or frontiers, we want to forge cultural integration across the globe and therefore it is important for us to understand the family values of different cultures". To hear that tourism can be such an important tool to spread cultural values was quite revelling, and to achieve this, what is better way than to encourage "Home stays". An amazing travel deal.
Home stay concept is not new. For ages, we visit our friends and relatives, stay with them for a short or long duration. The same concept as extended to unknown visitors from overseas for a couple of day or weeks is home stay. This concept was very popular with the visiting student community as it offered them the opportunity to learn a foreign language fast and the stay was economical
In recent days, home stay is becoming very popular in India. People owning a four or five bedroom villa would earmark a section of the house with say three bedrooms with attached bathrooms and offer them for the visiting tourists. The rooms are very tastefully furnished. Some homes have rooms that are as good as those in a luxury hotel or resort are. The visitors have their own privacy and yet the have the option to share the evenings in the family living room, chat with the owners, watch the TV, play cards or simply enjoy a long dinner drink before dinner. Dinners are normally served on the family dining table for everyone in the house. For those wanting to have meals in the privacy of their own rooms, the host normally obliges.
The home stays are now very well organised. The bookings are regulated through the tourism department or can also be made directly. The local authorities keep a watch on the quality of rooms, food, hygiene and health of the staff working in the home. Owners have to register themselves with the local authorities.
Most home stays are on a bed and breakfast basis but the option for lunch and dinner is available to the guest. The owners have arrangements for tourist transport, sight seeing and tour guide. These services can be availed on request, so can a host of other services and facilities. For destinations where there is a shortage of hotel rooms and investment in infrastructure on low priority, home stay scheme could be a great means to reduce the demand supply imbalance. It needs support and encouragement.
Home stays are a wonderful way to present culture and hospitality to the visitor on a very personal level and in a very understanding way; it offers the visitor experience of local customs and ways of life very closely and is a weapon to bring cultures, traditions and civilisations together. Perhaps this is the way to realise Pandit Nehru's dream - "Welcome a stranger, send back a friend". Home stays are bringing people closer.
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Ram Gupta is a professional hospitality consultant with over four decades of experience in Asia, Far East, Middle East and Europe. He has been associated with over two dozen hotel projects. His web site can be viewed at http://www.bcgglobal.com and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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