Rural Nepal allowing homestays, and helping to boost Ecotourism
Thinking of my cousin Diana and her husband, who just got married and are on assignment in Nepal! I am hoping they can visiti soon.
Nepal has homes in rural Patlekhet that are not just residences. With clean and furnished rooms, certain homes here also serve as small guesthouses, a part of the village’s Ecotourism Home Stay Program.
“We are enthusiastic to welcome tourists in every house,” says Keshab Badal, president of the local ecotourism homestay program.
Patlekhet is a small town in Kavre, a district that neighbors Kathmandu. Popular for tourists, the village provides an escape from the capital city. Fog often blankets the green fields. But when the fog disappears, the majestic view of the Himalayas arrests the eyes of visitors.
“In order to promote the view of the Himalayas, as well as our local art and culture, we have started this homestay program,” Badal says.
There are no hotels or restaurants in Patlekhet, a village far away from modernization. Instead, there are clusters of traditional houses built from mud and stones. Narrow, muddy lanes lead from one house to another.
About 20 of these houses are especially designated for tourists who visit Patlekhet, with 50 beds available for guests. Badal says the village has welcomed some 200 foreign tourists since the program began.
Love Green Nepal, a local nongovernmental organization, initiated the program in 2010. Love Green Nepal has been operating for 20 years, guiding communities in six of Kavre’s village development committees on education, health, biogas and income-generation programs. Banking on the majestic view of the Himalayas, the organization formed a group to promote tourism as well as benefit locals, says Gore Kaji Sangat, executive director of Love Green Nepal.
The program welcomed a group of Japanese students for a week as its first guests. Love Green Nepal initially helped the village to bring in tourists, but now the locals are active in recruiting visitors, Sangat says.
“The tourists are very happy with the hospitality of the locals,” Sangat says.
Local music welcomes the tourists to the village. They stay with families, eat home-grown vegetables, take tours of the area and learn about its traditions. Before they leave, they receive local souvenirs to take home.
“We welcome and satisfy the guests as far as we can,” Badal says.
The program has also become a source of income generation for local women.
Women, whose days revolve around agriculture and household chores, are happy to engage with tourists and welcome them, says Kamali Tamang, treasurer of Love Green Nepal. The women also benefit from the program economically without incurring much extra work. Hosting guests only requires some additional cooking and cleaning.
“It’s actually an easy job for women,” Tamang says gleefully.
And the people of Patkelkhet aren’t the only ones in Nepal opening their homes to tourists. Registered with the Nepal Tourism Board, the program is part of the growing national initiative to promote homestays, Badal says.
A growing number of locals are operating homestay programs in Nepal, offering tourists a window into local culture in areas without hotels as well as boosting socialization and income generation in isolated villages. The rise in homestay programs is the result of a national government initiative to boost tourism. Challenges still exist, such as a lack of funding and marketing. But the government and local residents say they are doing what they can to attract domestic and foreign tourists.
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