“ Is there something wrong in the way I built my house, It’s my dream house. How can a stranger come to my house and say, “ Well , you haven’t built your kitchen as mentioned, so we won’t be able to list you amongst the list of registered homestays “ It’s so annoying and also humiliating”. This was the statement given by a Rural Tourism host of one of the hilly regions of West Bengal.
With the change in the choice of genre and the niche of traveling, there has been a remarkable growth in the sector of rural tourism. Unfortunately, the obvious reason that gave rise to this concept has now brought it to the same ribbon line that acts as both the start and the end. Recently the Government of West Bengal, all of a sudden, has formed policies for registration of Homestays. The officers from the local administrative office are visiting the homestays to implement the policies. The strange part is that the true stake holders are not at all aware of the new homestay policies of the Government.
The homestays in the hilly regions of West Bengal has been running since decades. This concept of Rural tourism was an alternative source of income for the hill population where the opportunities of livelihood are scarce in comparison to the plain areas. Long after their efforts and social labor, today the homestays in the hilly regions have reached a successful stage of market. However, till the time the Government didn’t provide even the motivational support to the community. The so-called stake holders meeting always focused more on the commercial travel and tourism industry that spoke about the star category of hotels. The subsidiased financial support were for the tourism industrialists. The rural homestay concept was a too tiny subject in the agenda. Meanwhile the villagers, carrying the pamphlets were coming down from the cold hills to the burning streets of kolkata to meet few travel agents for marketing support, all in their own stakes. The loud cries, political wits of the tourism experts never reached the villages. The only subject of tourism that the villagers knew and that was inherited was their hospitality culture. Unlike the industry, their smiles weren’t commercial, their service were’nt demanding and their food was their privilege of happiness and togetherness of the family.
The small houses and patios dazzling with colourful flowers, the carpet of flowery petals of the weeping willow covering the narrow pavements of village, the rendezvous benches often locally named “ chautary”, the resting places often called “ Hawa Ghar” for the travelers, were never the part of huge tourism projects planned and proposed by the tourism experts. Today, it is quite surprising to see that the same tourism experts are too focused to impose the policies drafted and packed by their own technical minds on the simple villagers.
After a decade of peacefully building relationships with the travelers, an uninvited officer visits the same homestay built by the blood and sweat of the villagers and says, “ Your rooms are not unto the mark, the kitchen is not standard,” so it doesn’t fall under the category. This is the result of the highly professional technical minds. They perfectly do know the process of categorisation. So now all that a villager needs to do is reconstruct the homestay to market it with the higher ranks. Their sober and happy nature, behaviour, hospitality culture and all that were the USPs have all now solidified to the concrete and wooden floors, no of rooms, etc. The petty investment made by the villager will now require more external investment just to rank high in the competetion.
The question now arises is that ” Is it an effort of the Tourism technical minds of West Bengal to merge the concept of rural tourism with the mainstream tourism concept?”. If it is then the time has come to develop a more orthodox module of Rural tourism infrastructure in the villages that will pursue the simplicity of the true concept of Rural Tourism. This initiative will serve those revolutionary travelers who had promoted this concept. The community that never had any support can surely further take this initiative. Soon again there will be new policies as the only great job the thinkers can do is draft strangulating policies and taxes.