Kerala’s tourism industry will get an additional boost as the government will not only streamline homestay operations but promote them as well, said a minister.
Homestay enables visitors rent rooms from local families.
"What we have found out from our various tourism road shows that are held across continents is that there is a good demand for experiencing the village life of our state and for that the best product that we can offer is homestays," Tourism Minister AP Anil Kumar told IANS.
He said there are around 1,000 homestays that are registered with the department.
"We are in the process of streamlining homestay operations. We have already reduced the electricity tariff that was previously under commercial category to a lower category," said Kumar.
In a matter of five years, the total rooms that are available has doubled and crossed the 80,000 room mark.
There are teething issues and the state government is doing their best to overcome them, said M.C. Sivadathan, director of Kerala Homestay and Tourism Society (Kerala HATS), an NGO, which looks into the issues faced by homestays.
"We are all waiting for the state government to come out with a government order where clear-cut guidelines are laid out. One lacuna in the present set of rules is the unrealistic charges that are being levied as annual tax by the local self governments who charge as high as 60 per cent of the total area of the house."
"This is too high because we already pay tax to the government. We have met with the chief minister and others and expect that they will come up with a realistic figure, said Sivadathan.
Homestays charge as low as Rs.300 to Rs.5,000 a day, depending on the facilities that are offered.
K Punnoose, who lives in a 130-year-old ancestral home in Kottayam said that he will be glad to offer homestay facilities as both his children are married, and this would be an activity that would keep his wife and him busy.
"I am waiting for the government to come out with a clear homestay policy. The Kerala village life is a much sought after by many foreigners and it not only brings extra money to the home stay owner, but also the village community," said Punnoose.
Tourists who prefer to explore the village life in Kerala can look forward for a bullock cart ride, a visit to the local religious places, visit the local market to buy groceries and spend a quiet time in a serene atmosphere.