The tourism industry is a significant player in revenue generation in many countries. However, the income generated from travel can remain concentrated in the hands of a few. Inclusivity in tourism presents an opportunity to ensure that the income generated remains within the communities where the travel occurs. There are many individual entities and groups in India who have taken up tourism projects to implement inclusive growth, ensuring that tourism benefits the maximum number of people. Here are five different kinds of homestays and projects that you may want to add to your travel bucketlist.
Hewly Homestay, Arunachal Pradesh
This homestay in Namsai village, owned and run by school teacher Sinawati Mungyak, has been an inspiration for other women in the village to convert part of their houses to home stays too. Sinawati Mungyak is happy that these women are able to boost their family income. Namsai, home to the indigenous Khampti people, is known for its monasteries and as a seat of Theravada Buddhism. At the picturesquely situated and well-appointed Hewly Homestay, you can learn about the lifestyle of Khampti people as well as enjoy their typical cuisine. Contact: +91-9862708997/9774491448. More about it here.
Thembang Bapu CCA, Arunachal Pradesh
Located in the West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh, Thembang is a 12th century old fortified village and a nominee on the tentative UNESCO World Heritage Site list. The village, ringed by mountains and forests, offers a spectacular view of the Dirang River. To ensure protection of biodiversity, WWF-India started a community initiative to protect and manage forest and wildlife by ensuring economic development. Thembang Bapu CCA Management Committee is a registered body which looks after various aspects of development in the village. They also helped villagers open homestays; this alternative source of income has encouraged the people to protect the biodiversity, which in turn is attracting naturalists, bird watchers and adventure lovers to the region. More about it here.
Himalayan Ark Homestay, Uttarakhand
What started as Delhi-ite Malika Virdi’s endeavour to empower the women in the Himalayan villages has now turned into a community owned rural tourism venture, the Himalayan Ark Homestay. Virdi had left Delhi to settle in Sarmoli, a village located to Munsiyari, better known for its panoramic view of the Panchachuli mountain range. Himalayan Ark Homestay believes rural tourism enterprises must be ‘nature based and people-centric’ and ‘committed to social justice’. All their homestays, including the flagship Sarmoli Home Stay, are owned and run by local mountain families. You can also undertake adventure activities with their experienced local guides. While here, do not forget to visit Darkot village (7km away from Sarmoli) known for knitted products produced by local women-run cooperatives. More about it here.
Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust, Ladakh
As the name implies, the organisation started working in the Trans-Himalayan regions of Ladakh and Spiti for the conservation of the highly endangered snow leopard. They focus primarily on ‘building local stewardship through community-based tourism, education and research in Ladakh’. And today, ‘where snow leopards and wolves were looked upon as pests and adversaries because of frequent livestock depredation are now considered as Ri Gyancha (ornaments of the mountains)' according to the organisation. One of their key activities has been helping local people to set up homestays, through their endeavour Himalayan Homestays. More about it here.
Aura Kalari Tree, Karnataka
A love for nature, an interest in traditional mud house building techniques, and breaking established rules for household spaces are what makes this ‘tree and mud homestay’ in Chikkagubbi village (on the outskirts of Bengaluru) an anti-thesis of the urban existence, a celebration of unpretentious lifestyle. Enamoured by a mango tree in the plot next to his friend’s Kalaripayattu school, civil engineer Rajeev Balakrishnan decided to use the space to create an experience where one may break away from the mundane. More about it here.