Situated in a historical town to the east of Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, is a community of individuals who have been opening up their homes to travelers from around the world in an attempt to utilize tourism as a way to promote sustainable development. Travelers stay in a local’s home, eat with the family and visit local attractions in the area, all the while participating in a cross cultural exchange of words and experiences. This exchange is not the only one of its kind in Nepal: responsible tourism organization CommunityHomestay.com has been promoting this concept of community-based tourism (a term used to define a type of tourism that emphasizes the development of local communities around the world), on a national scale.
One of the great advantages of community-based tourism is that it is equal opportunity. In an industry that generates over $7.6 trillion every year, community-based tourism provides an opportunity for a piece of that enormous sum of money to reach some of the most marginalized communities in our world. CommunityHomestay.com is an initiative that helps ensure that funds reach communities throughout central and rural Nepal, one of the poorest countries in South Asia.
This initiative from Royal Mountain Travel is a community-based homestay network that connects global travelers with the real faces of Nepal for a genuine local travel experience in the Himalayan region. The company’s motto, “There is no better way to understand a place, but living like one of them,” resonates with travelers who know the feeling of truly immersing themselves into other cultures and gaining alternate experiences that generate empathy and understanding.
Seeing an opportunity for income generation in less-traveled regions of Nepal, Royal Mountain Travel invested time and money in working with families in these communities in the fields of communication, education, food safety and general household cleanliness. This generates a steady flow of tourists to the region. Royal Mountain Travel plans itineraries and experiences that allow visitors to experience a true Nepali lifestyle and provides the opportunity to participate in activities and visit sites specific to the region. These experiences bring income not only to the families participating in the homestay program, but to the local economy as well.
One example of this is in Panauti, where Community Homestay is promoting an off-the-beaten-path trekking route between Sanga & Panauti, about 40kms east of Kathmandu. Tourists seldom visit this region, but with the promotion of this particular trekking route, CommunityHomestay.com will be able to aid with the construction of two tea houses along the route, (an initiative that will see income generated to the families of those running the tea house business, as well as the potential to bring income to other shops along the route).
The majority of the homes in the homestay programs are run by women, with a focus from CommunityHomestay.com to empower women in local communities. The socio-economic status of women in Nepal is very poor due to a number of outdated traditions that force women to play a back-seat role in society. A role that is strongly influenced by fathers, husbands and/or sons. For example, the citizenship and property ownership of a woman is determined by her marriage – being a single, divorced or widowed woman has many limitations and is still, in this age, frowned upon by the greater society.
The homestay programs empower women to take a lead role in their communities. Education and English lessons, provided by Royal Mountain Travel, have given women, some having never had any type of education prior to this, the opportunity to improve their literacy skills and communicate with travelers. Women have become more confident in interacting with tourists and with members of their own community.
“The Homestay project, in our community, has produced a huge change in our society. Be it the status of women in the society or awareness in the locals about environment and cleanliness, the Homestay project has created a positive impact on the Tharu society.” – Tharu Community Homestay
There has also been a shift in the environmental awareness of whole communities. Boiled water is used instead of bottled water, communities organize clean up days, solar panels have been installed in some houses and forward-thinking practices, such as organic farming and waste reduction is common among families in the programs. The standard of living is rising and the impact of CommunityHomestay.com is reaching far beyond those families involved.
Currently, the homestay program reaches 10 regions in Nepal, with the aspiration to open in more remote areas. Travelers can participate in homestays that are in close proximity to the capital of Kathmandu or nearer to Pokhara and Chitwan National Park. All experiences provide a unique glimpse into Nepalese culture and tradition. Guests can participate in cooking classes with the host family, join in numerous festivities available throughout the year or partake in local activities, such as learning to farm or visiting local villages. Each experience contributes to the socio-economic development of these regions and their communities.
“Our aim is to inspire, educate and involve various Nepalese communities to protect their culture, tradition and arts and to uplift their economic status through responsible tourism practices,” said Shiva Dhakal, Managing Director of Royal Mountain Travel. “Generating economic opportunities from their very own houses – from their unique culture – helps to make a community strong, independent.”
Participation in community-based tourism, whether it be a homestay program, tour or any type of community program, ensures that tourist dollars contribute to the economy of marginalized communities around the world. This is the basis of responsible tourism and tourism that will contribute to a more equal world.
For more information or to book a homestay in Nepal visit communityhomestay.com