by Sudan Budathoki, Senior Office -Online Branding & Communication, Royal Mountain Travel, on behalf of CommunityHomestay.com
While luxurious hotels with all the mod-cons can be a lavish way to travel, with travelers interested in getting to know local people and exploring different cultures, some may find this a limiting way of experiencing a country. If you’ve seen the inside of one generic hotel, you’ve pretty much seen them all. But the Community Homestay Program, an initiative of Royal Mountain Travel, co-operating with multiple native communities of Nepal, offers an innovative and unique service for travelers wanting a comfortable place to sleep as well as local flavor, warm hospitality and the chance to see and experience things not otherwise accessible to tourists.
CommunityHomestay.com is a network of community homestays in Nepal, with the objective to empower women of vulnerable communities, preserving Nepalese ancient culture and traditions, supporting local business, and creating a memorable vacation for travelers visiting community Homestays.
Currently, the network envelops twelve community homestays from all over the Nepal. To become a family in the Community Homestay Network, a community is suggested to come forward with at least ten families (houses) to host guests. The homestay program recommends and prefers women to lead the project. Once the application is submitted, administration officers of CommunityHomestay.com pay their visit to the respective community. If a community meets the guidelines, CommunityHomestay.com begins promoting that community in the national and international travel industry. But, if a community does not meet the requirements, CommunityHomestay.com takes every possible measure to make a community competent to host guests. From a fund raising program (to maintain houses) to hospitality courses, from the English language learning classes and health and sanitation awareness, CommunityHomestay.com supports a community by every reasonable means. Once a community is comfortable to host guests, they are requested to reserve some certain amount of revenue to eradicate a social issue or to support a social situation. This is to say, not only a host family shall witness the benefits of community homestay, but eventually an entire community shall gain the positive impacts of responsible tourism.
One such example is Panauti Community Homestay. Like every other community homestay in the network, this homestay is a women-led project in a small town of Panauti, 32 kilometers outside the Kathmandu Valley. In 2009, 10 housewives and Royal Mountain Travel ventured for this very first project. In the initial days, housewives, who later became successful entrepreneurs, were shy and showed a lack of confidence to host foreign guests into their houses. They were concerned if a guest would not like the poor infrastructure of their houses or a guest would not like their home-cooked food or they would not be able to communicate with guests in a foreign language. Most of the housewives of Panauti Homestay are uneducated, and there was an urgent need to encourage them. Royal Mountain Travel provided training to these housewives regarding hospitality, service management, and gave English language learning classes. Royal Mountain also provided an idea and supported the houses to re-build toilets and bathrooms. Gradually, the owners/housewives began hosting guests in their houses. As every guest who visited their Homestay showed their tremendous support to housewives/owners of Panauti Community Homestay, the concept of community homestay came to an existence to empower women from every vulnerable community of Nepal.
Now the women of Panauti are full of confidence. The housewives are earning well, in some cases, more than their husbands. They can afford to send their children to better schools and their husbands are proud and happy for their wives’ success. With growing success, Panauti Community Homestay installed solar panel energy displaying their support for the natural energy. Once the kids of Panauti would chase a traveler for chocolates, now they communicate with guests in the English language and help lost travelers, if they spot one. A certain amount of revenue, generated from the homestay project, is set aside to support widowed women of Panauti; supporting financially to sponsor their children for education. The same revenue is also used to build a community hall, where younger generation are learning to play traditional Newari (ethnic) music, which was almost extinct.
Such a success story has not limited its passion only to Panauti, rather it has encouraged other women from different communities to come forward to establish homestays. Other homestays in the Community Homestay Network are following the same principle. Women are in charge of other homestay projects, and so far it seems to be the fact that if a mother in a house becomes stronger, an entire family becomes stronger. If mothers of a community are stronger, the entire community sees only prosperity.