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Travel with Social Good in Nepal’s Community Homestays

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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.

Interaction with international cultures

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.

 

Women of Panauti

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.

Panauti Town

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.

Disclaimer: The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author(s) and those providing comments on these blogs are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or positions of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) or any employee thereof. We make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability or validity of any information presented by individual authors and/or commenters on our blogs and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries or damages arising from its display or use.

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Honourable Mention Community Based Tourism Initiative

TheCBT-Vietnam RedDao-hadynyah-copy-e1422561514990 Northern Vietnam Community Based Tourism project is a collaboration of several organizations that make up the overall initiative. It is led by the School of Tourism at Capilano University in association with Hanoi Open University, and the ethnic hill tribe communities of Taphin, TaVan, and Lao Chai in the trekking region of Sapa. The Capilano University School of Tourism lies within the Faculty of Global and Community Studies. Some of the guiding principles of the Faculty are to connect from global to local levels in all facets of learning, demonstrate leadership in stewardship and sustainability, place emphasis on healthy communities and good governance, and actively engage and pursue social entrepreneurship. We have also had the support of the PATA Foundation to run this project for the past five years.

The overall goal of the work has been to provide practical tourism training for three ethnic minority communities (Tavan, Taphin and Lao Chai) to reduce poverty, create employment opportunities, and improve quality of life. The key objectives have been as follows:
• To create healthy business operations for several independent family or individual owners;
• To create social enterprises in the villages to share benefits of tourism
• To build active business partnerships with appropriate values based external tourism operators where mutual benefit results
• To facilitate quality and good value tourist experiences in the villages;
• To generate fiscal resources to sustain and enhance tourist products;
• To improve environmental quality in alignment with the development of tourism in the communities.

When Capilano University and Hanoi Open University were first invited into the villages of Taphin and Tavan in 2002 to begin the work of helping generate sustainable tourism, Sapa was just emerging as a destination and very few visitors were coming to the remote, ethnic minority villages. We were challenged to help locals understand what tourism was, what the perspectives of the visitors were, and to help build skills in a culture based solely on subsistence agriculture and minor trade for hundreds of years. The only way to achieve this was through exceptionally high levels of consultation, community engagement, and relationship building. Details of the work and outcomes are described in following sections of this submission.

 

For more information: CBT Vietnam website

Honourable Mention Community Based Tourism Initiative

Ban Rai Gong KingBan Rai Gong King Village is a small community in Chiangmai Province, a popular tourist destination in the northern part of Thailand. The community is situated next to Chiangmai Night Safari, so the main occupation of the villagers are vegetable plantation to sell as animal food in the zoo. During the economic crisis in the year 1997, many villagers who worked in the city moved back to Ban Rai Gong King Village to be with family and to think about what to do next. Many villagers lost their jobs and income. To help solving the economic problem of villagers, the village headman set up the ‘Ban Rai Gong King Development Fund’ which started with 3,000 Baht (approximately USD100). The initial money was used to set up a Bulk Purchasing Business where villagers can sign up for their commodity needs and the village headman will go to buy the products in bulk to get the wholesale price and save money for all. The profit from this business goes to the Development Fund which is used for community welfare from the birth to the death.

With the rich cultural resource and strong community welfare system, Ban Rai Gong King Village thought about using tourism as a development tool to improve the livelihood of villagers. With the support from various organizations, Ban Rai Gong King Community-based Tourism Club is formed with the objectives of the following:
1. To use tourism as a tool for developing sustainable livelihood of the villagers.
2. To revive the local culture and wisdom for next generation.
3. To improve the community welfare.
4. To promote healthy lifestyle for all.

The operation of Ban Rai Gong King Community-based Tourism Club is fruitful because of villagers’ participation in every process of development. That is why in the year 2015, Ban Rai Gong King Community based Tourism club earned a Thailand Tourism Awards in the category for ‘Best Community-based Tourism’.

Best Community Based Tourism Initiative

Bojo AloguinsanBojo Aloguinsan Ecotourism Association (BAETAS) was formally registered with the Department of Labor and Employment in October 2009, and with the Bureau of Internal Revenue the following year. The project was initiated by the local government of the municipality of Aloguinsan, a town located 73 kilometers midwest of Cebu City on the island of Cebu in central Philippines. The town is classified as a 4th class municipality with a population of 26,000 and a land area of 7,421 hectares. The village of Bojo is a fishing village of about 1,600 residents living in an area of about 355 hectares. Most of the residents earn from fishing, farming and working as laborers in the city. The 1.3 kilometer Bojo River flows through this village and empties into the Tanon Strait, the biggest marine protected area in the Philippines, and home to 14 species of dolphins.

Community organizing work began in the first quarter of 2009. The association had 52 member families with 75% of them having finished elementary education. More than half of the members are fishermen and housewives and earning US$70 a month. Sixty-five percent have lived in the village since birth.

BAETAS’ mission is to protect Bojo river and the marine resources of Tanon Strait, and attract tourists and earn supplemental income. Its general strategy is community-driven environmental management and the approach is ecotourism revenue as a strong incentive to protect the environment. By the middle of 2009, the Bojo River Eco-Cultural Tour was launched. After fine-tuning the product for a year, it began full swing in 2010.

To date, it has received almost 38,000 satisfied tourists who have joined the tour bringing memorable and meaningful experiences with them after. Tours have generated a total receipt of 16 million pesos with the 2.6 million pesos turned over to the local government. People hail it as a trailblazing initiative in Philippine community-based ecotourism where a local community association gives financial endowment to a municipal government from its tourism activities! The Department of Environment and Natural Resource, Integrated Coastal Resource Management Project and the Asian Development Bank awarded BAETAS the Inang Kalikasan Award for Best in Ecotourism Leadership in 2013.