How come Andhra is left out of the mining loot story ? It is good for the nation if we learn to keep environmental and...
The UN environment report states that Ganga would disappear by 2030.There would be no need to train engineers or even Ganga...
A report published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology suggests that babies of...
To commune with the rugged beauty of a hilly terrain with a touch of the pristine about it, from the snug comfort of rustic dwellings -- a tourist's dream, one could say. Kewzing village in Ravangla sub-division of south Sikkim brings this image to life with its Village Home Stay programme.
Under the programme, launched in 2003, foreign tourists can stay with a village family as guests. The villagers have set up an elected, registered body - the Kewzing Tourism Development Committee (ktdc) -- that charges us $60 per foreign tourist per day and later pays the host families.
The ktdc regulates tourism, ensuring the profits are evenly distributed among the 20 families participating in the programme. The ktdc has set strict tourism rules. No hotel or resort is allowed in the village, nor can a family allot more than two rooms to tourists. Charges are fixed for various tourist activities and giving tips to host families is not allowed.
Says ktdc general secretary Jigme Womchuk, " ktdc makes all travel bookings. All tourists have to come through ktdc, which ensures financial regularity. We want the whole village to develop and flourish as part of our programme, hence the thrust is on community participation." In the first year of the programme, Kewzing attracted about 90 foreign tourist families, which raised the annual income of each participating family by Rs 6,300.
What sets Kewzing apart from other villages trying similar experiments is that its villagers have not divorced their earlier lifestyle to promote tourism. The tribal Bhutia community village continues to grow organic vegetables, which are supplied to nearby states; and also grows organic cardamom that is exported to the Middle East. "Tourism is seen just as a means of supplementing the village income," says Womchuk, who is also a primary school teacher. The programme is run through the year, though the best time to visit the village is from October to June.
But developing this model of tourism was not easy. In 2001, 3-4 villages were identified for simultaneously launching the Home Stay programme. The idea was that villagers will not go for new construction, but will utilise an extra room in their house for the programme. Unfortunately, all the villages identified were found unsuitable on closer inspection -- either they had insufficient infrastructure or were difficult to access. The sdf then contacted an expert in Nepal who has done similar work in Sirubari village near Pokhara in the Himalayan kingdom. He helped sdf identify Kewzing and conduct capacity building exercises in the village. "Kewzing is located on the main road and has basic infrastructure. All we did was to organise local people and guide them to keep their area clean and well-sanitised. The idea of this programme is to treat tourists like family guests. Serve them nicely without becoming artificial," says Takapa.
The programme is also helping revive interest in the local culture. Every evening, the villagers organise a cultural programme for the guests. "Earlier we could not even sing a Bhutia song, but now we sing, dance and practice regularly," says Womchuk.
The programme has been a boon for the village youth. Take the case of Chong, an avid bird watcher, who is now the official guide of the village and earns Rs 1,500 a month. ktdc is sending Chong to Gwalior to study for a Bachelor's degree in tourism. Other unemployed people have also been roped in. ktdc has also tied up with travel agents in Gangtok, who send tourists to this Bhutia village. "Sikkim government is promoting tourism but it should look at our model. Haphazard construction will spoil the original beauty of our state," says Womchuk.