Go to Himachal Pradesh; stay at home

August 14th, 2008 - 10:50 am ICT by IANS  

By Vishal Gulati
Shimla, Aug 14 (IANS) Want to go to Himachal Pradesh for a vacation but bored with hotels and guesthouses? Well, there’s good news for you, as the state government has taken the lead in promoting home stay in villages. Residents of this Himalayan state in northern India are now being encouraged to throw open their doors to both domestic and foreign tourists for home stay in rustic settings, formalising a practice that has anyway been prevalent in the state’s scenic Kullu valley for many years.

Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC) managing director Ram Subhag Singh said under the ‘home stay scheme’ any villager can rent out a portion of his house to tourists.

“Today tourists do not want to remain cocooned in a five-star environment to which they are accustomed at home. Their actual requirement is rural tourism - the real experience of nature,” Singh told IANS.

He says the scheme not only generates self-employment for people living in villages but will also de-congest urban areas.

The scheme will also check fleecing by hoteliers at popular tourist destinations during the peak season. Now, the budget tourist has the option to stay in private houses in villages located on the outskirts of the city.

Under the scheme, an owner of a house located in a village can seek permission from the tourism department to rent out up to three rooms to tourists. Each room should have an attached toilet.

These home stay units will not have to pay luxury tax or sales tax. They will be charged domestic rates for electricity and water, as before.

“Tourists love to stay in my spacious wooden cottage with apple trees all around,” said Ram Kondal from Sairopa village in Kullu district.

“We can also take the tourists trout fishing in the Tirthan river.”

“From rock climbing or jungle trekking to white-water rafting or parasailing - it’s all here,” says Rikhi Ram who lives on the outskirts of the popular tourist town Manali.

“Tourists coming to the Kullu valley can be given an experience in plucking apples or sowing fields with bullocks or cooking from garden fresh vegetables,” he adds.

Ram Subhag Singh says the tourism department is also planning to impart training to the owners of the home stay units so that they can provide better service to tourists.

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