CHITWAN, Oct 1: Bed Kumar Mahato spent his 10 years in foreign employment in Malaysia. He returned home last January and did not wish to go abroad again. He wanted to earn well at home, but it was not possible with farming. So he thought of starting a homestay facility.
Homestay facilities already existed in his village, but that did not deter him from his determination. He started on the venture from the new year.
To turn his own home into a homestay facility, he spent Rs 800,000 in building a guest home and a kitchen. "All my family members stay together, and they help me in welcoming the guests,” he said. "It has just started and I am satisfied."
Unlike other homes, his home has welcomed more international tourists than domestic. "Guests like our Tharu culture, food and local environment," he said.
The Tharu community of Meghauli started homestay business in January 2011. Jiwan Chaudhary from Bharatpur Metropolitan, Ward 27, the first to start homestay service in the village, says he can easily manage his time between ancestral occupation of farming and the new business of home¬-stay.
"For the first 2-3 years, only few tourists visited us. It took time for people to know about us," he said. "The number of tourists is increasing from last year, and we are earning well."
The eight homestay facilities in the village can provide services to around 45 guests at a time, according to Somlal Mahato, chairperson of Tharu Samudayik Homestay Meghauli. In a year, 3,714 domestic tourists and 95 international tourists have arrived in the homestay facilities. The service has started in two more houses this year, and ten more are almost ready to start operation. All together, the existing and upcoming homes can accommodate 80 tourists at a time.
The erstwhile District Development Committee had provided Rs 15,000 to each family to start homestay facility. According to Mahato, they used the money to repair houses and cleaning it before starting the service.
Meanwhile, the Chitwan Chamber of Commerce and Industry is coming forward to promote tourism in Meghauli. The chamber and Tharu Samudayik Homestay Meghauli have joined hands for the development of tourism in the area. According to an agreement between the two, the chamber will help in adding infrastructure in the homes.
Likewise, they have agreed to provide traditional clothes and jewelry, sound system and different instrument to the homes. According to Ashok Adhikari, tourism promotion coordinator of the chamber, they would provide training to the homes to expand business and commercialize it.
Promotion of homestay will help in creating self employment opportunities in rural areas and increase in earning. According to Adhikari, the agreement will help in tourism development, business promotion, and commercialization of the homestay facilities, which will also promote and conserve the local tradition and heritage. Large number of tourists is expected to visit Meghauli in the Visit Nepal Year 2020.
Currently, only few tourists visit Meghauli compared to other destinations of Chitwan district. Star hotels are expensive, so promotion of home stay can benefit both the tourists and the home owners, according to tour operators. Both domestic and international tourists are showing interest toward Tharu culture and tradition these days. At Meghauli, tourists can participate in jungle safari, boating, and other activities like the other popular destinations of the district.
The famous Chitwan National Park can be easily accessed from the area, and beautiful sunset can be viewed at the confluence of Rapti and Narayani Rivers.