POKHARA, Jan 19: Homestay is not a healing center. However, that can certainly be made so, according to Yogi Bikasananda. ‘Even now, people are getting healed in a certain way when they spend time meeting ‘organic’ people, far from the maddening crowd .’
Speaking at a program ‘Spirituality in Tourism’, held in Pokhara on Friday by Homestay Association of Nepal, Bikasananda said that homestay helps keep both the mind and body healthy. Food, culture, and lifestyle tourists are directly benefitted by homestay, he said.
“Why do people think of staying in rural villages, with indigenous people in the first hand? Knowingly, unknowingly, they are looking for some break from the tedious daily life of the city. And when they get fresh food, fresh air, and get in the company of welcoming people, the healing process begins. They get healed from inside,” he elaborated.
Stating that villages and towns of Nepal have tremendous potentials to attract tourists and keeping them for long, Bikasananda urged the government to focus more on tourism and homestay service. “There is a need of infrastructures to make homestay service more effective, and more popular,” he said.
Trekking and homestay services have a very close link. Tourists are found to chose areas for homestay where they can move out for trekking. As a result, several villages in the hills are offering this service. Jungles, rivers, and mountains are the most sought after locations by such tourists.
“If you compare, people in the villages are more much healthier then city dwellers. Tourists are in search of places where their health gets better living conditions. For homestay, they try to find places which gives them a variety of offers including trekking. Walking for long hours keeps you very fit and spiritually charged,” Bikasananda said.
While talking of spirituality, he elaborated on even Nepal’s climate and weather. There are many countries where the sun does not shine as adequately as it does in Nepal. Similarly, Nepal is blessed in terms of rain and wind, he said.
“Such a pleasant place obviously connects you to the soul. That’s spirituality. So, visiting Nepal is not just for fun but for a deeper connection with life and soul,” he said. “When you don’t get enough sun, what happens to your body? It does not function well. So, here in Nepal, the environment offers us good health by providing us every natural thing adequately,” he added.
While saying so, he stressed on the need to categorize foreign tourists in order to avail them the service they need. For instance, if they have come from the coldest part of the world, they might be more interested in sunbathing, he said. “If the tourism industry remains aware of such minor details, it can come up with far better offers and options for the tourists,” he said.
The high Himalayas have always been the biggest tourist attraction in Nepal for a long time now. And that’s a great way of getting healed, Bikasananda stated.
“When you enjoy the fervor of nature, your healing process starts. It needs no elaboration on why tourists spend many days in the high Himalayas. It heals,” he said.
According to Bikash Lamsal, Tourism Minister of Gandaki Province, the government is committed to promote and conserve the environment and cultures of the province. “We have plans and we are working on that. By 2022, we are committed to bringing in 2 million tourists. There will be homestay services in 300 villages of the province. This year, 2019 is also being celebrated as the year of domestic tourism,” he said.
A lot of people in the villages are already making a good income by offering the service. Supported by local governments, indigenous communities have felt encouraged to go on. “Due to the homestay business, fewer people are going overseas for employment. We don’t have data yet, but soon, we will be able to give the picture,” Lamsal said.
Krishna Timilsina, secretary of Homestay Association of Nepal, said that the future of the country is very bright, thanks to the booming tourism sector. “We need to try several things for prosperity. We just need to focus on the right thing. And that’s tourism, for Nepal,” he said. “Our need now is to develop infrastructure. Unless and until we are equipped with the necessary infrastructure, we won’t be able to benefit from our resources, culture, and natural beauty. We also have attractions like Yoga and spirituality to woo tourists and to help them heal from the inside,” he added.