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This is what's driving Kerala tourism

By Rajesh S Kurup & Prabodh Chandrasekhar in Mumbai
October 03, 2005 12:48 IST
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Kerala, the God's own country, is witnessing manifold increase in tourist flow, mostly from Germany, Britain and France. The key to this phenomenon is "homestay", which enables tourists to stay with local people. Enthused with the success of the concept, Rajasthan too is ready to try the concept on an experimental basis.

Globally, homestay is not a new concept. Under this arrangement, the host provides accommodation to the tourist in his own house. This concept has been a major hit with theĀ  student community. In South Korea, homestay has become an industry, churning in revenues for its citizens.

"The concept of homestay, is picking up momentum and the state is experiencing an increase in tourists inflow. The visitors are mostly from the West, who come and stay at the locales to get a first hand experience of the Malayalee lifestyle," said Bharat Bhooshan, principal secretary, department of tourism, Kerala.

The state generated a revenue of Rs 992 crore (Rs 9.92 billion) from tourism last year, which is expected to increase by around 50 per cent in the next couple of years. It is, however, not known as to how much revenue is being generated through homestay.

According to the Kerala Tourism Department Corporations' (KTDC) website, in 2003 61.65 lakh tourists visited the state which is growing at around 7 per cent per year. In Kerala, homestay began as a cottage industry in early 2003. A group of entrepreneurs started the move, which was later encouraged by the department of tourism and KTDC. An industry estimate shows that there are over 300 homestays in Kerala and the number is rising with the each passing day.

According to Thomas Zacharias, director, Kalpyso Adventures, homestay is much cheaper than booking a room at a resort or hotel. While booking a room at a hotel would cost around $100 per day, a homestay would cost $20-30 per day.

"Neither two homes are alike, nor their food. The thrill of living amid the milieu of the country is also another secret of its success," said Jose Byju of Paradise Kerala, a tourism website. Tourists come to a particular home or locality after visiting the homestay websites. Word-of-mouth also plays a part in helping tourists decide.

Sources in the Union tourism ministry said that the government is looking at spreading the concept to other parts of the country, especially to Rajasthan, where it has already started taking roots.
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Rajesh S Kurup & Prabodh Chandrasekhar in Mumbai
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