This undated photo shows locals welcoming foreign tourists to Bhakunde in Baglung.
Homestays getting Rs 1 million each
POKHARA, May 2: The provincial government of Gandaki is distributing nearly Rs 300 million to homestays on ad hoc basis.
Though the provincial government has said that the handout to homestays is part of its efforts to promote tourism and self-employment in hospitality sector, the financial support program is being implemented without adequate assessment or study.
In its budget for Fiscal Year 2018/19, the provincial government has allocated a total of Rs 300 million for the purpose. The provincial government is now doling out the financial support without carrying out needs assessment of the community where homestays are being run.
The provincial government has decided to provide Rs 1 million each to 300 homestays in the province. In line with the decision, the provincial government has sought proposals from interested homestays for the grant.
Out of 228 homestays which have applied for the grants, the government has selected 190 applicants. The grant is being distributed based on the recommendation from local units. It has put applications of 38 homestays, which have not furnished required documents, on hold.
Observers say while it’s not good to offer grants for homestays in villages, the government should first set standards and basis for selection of beneficiaries. The government has not looked into various aspects like whether grant-receiving homestays have been receiving guests, whether the village is destination for tourists and whether the community is capable to run homestays.
Even some members of evaluation committee to select recipients of grant privately share their dissatisfaction over such distributive program. “Some communities have been distributed money for operating homestays after seeking their documents from phone,” a member of the evaluation committee told Republica. “There has not been any study so far about the condition of homestays receiving grants, flow of the guests, natural and cultural attractions, and available manpower, among others” said the member, requesting anonymity.
After distributing the grants in the first phase, the government has invited proposals from homestays in the second phase to get additional fund. The deadline to submit applications is expiring in four days. The government is even preparing to dole out grants to remaining 38 homestays who did not receive the financial assistance in the first phase in the lack of necessary documents. They have been asked to submit necessary documents again to get the grants.
The grant is being distributed in three phases -- 40 percent amount in the first and 30 percent each in remaining two phases.
Chiranjibi Pokharel, the chairman of Pokhara Tourism Council, said that the provincial government has brought the program to haphazardly distribute money under the pretext of promoting tourism in rural areas.
However, Bishnu Prasad Bhandari, the secretary at the Ministry of Industry, Tourism, Forest and Environment, Gandaki Province, defended the program. “The ministry is not distributing money to individuals. The grant is being offered to communities running homestays to build infrastructures,” said Bhandari. “As there will be investment of local units and communities themselves, it will support home-stay operation,” he added.
According to Bhandari, only homestays having a minimum of five households are eligible for the grant.
“The only objective of the program is to increase the income of locals by identifying new tourist destinations and attract tourists there. If the flow of tourists in homestays in villages increases, it will obviously benefit the tourism sector while also create self-employment opportunities in the villages,” he added.