By Y.S. Rana ,Chandigarh, May 2 : Where the Union Territory of Chandigarh has failed, the hill state of Himachal Pradesh has succeeded. The much-touted ‘Bed and Breakfast’ Scheme, launched in Chandigarh to provide quality and affordable accommodation and food to transit tourists, especially foreigners, failed to take off. But the ‘Home Stay’ Scheme, launched by the Himachal Pradesh Government in 2008 to draw tourists to distant places by providing them quality accommodation at reasonable rates during the peak season, has become a roaring success.
The ‘Home Stay’ Scheme seeks to draw tourists away from posh and crowded urban areas to the rural hinterland replete with natural surroundings, by providing them clean, comfortable and budget-friendly accommodation and food. According to official data, since the launch of the scheme, 338 ‘Home Stay” units with 891-roomed capacity, have been registered in the state. Out of these, 113 are located in Kullu- Manali region alone, while Shimla and Dharamsala account for about 90 units.The scheme has attracted overwhelming response in Kullu, Manali, Shimla, Dharamshala, Palampur, Dalhousie and Kasauli, and is gearing up to become a preferred destination for summer-time tourists. “Tourists these days look for places with local culture and natural environment rather than places with art galleries, monuments and sprawling buildings etc,” said Mr. S.M Sharma, owner of a tourist hut in Kasauli. Friendly community, healthy and safe environment, quality food and affordable accommodation hold the key to success of the scheme.
Tourists prefer to stay in small accommodations in the lap of nature, instead of in costly and noisy luxury hotels. The scheme has succeeded in bringing out tourists from the traditionally popular tourist destinations to new and untapped places which has enabled the state government to popularize new tourist destinations, and provide alternative source of income to the rural folks.
Since 2008, more than 18,000 Indian and 1,485 foreign tourists have stayed in “Home Stay” units and were cared for by rural folks. The scheme has also enabled the ruralites to get directly involved in the tourism industry, and derive its benefits. It will take tourism to new heights. “
“More than 3,000 people have been connected with the travel and tourism industry in the rural areas under this scheme. What’s more, it has helped generate economic activity to the tune of Rs 4 crore for the rural tourism industry which has helped raise the social and economic status of rural folks in the state”, remarked Dr Arun Sharma, Director, Tourism, Himachal Pradesh.
Besides offering tourists natural climate, the “Home Stay” units being located right in the midst of orchards and lush green valleys, these offer a place to relax and rejuvenate. With a view to giving a booster dose to the scheme, the Himachal Pradesh Government had accorded a number of incentives, including exempting these units from paying any taxes, and supplying them water and power at concessional rates applicable to domestic consumers, said Mr Sharma.