Jammu Kashmir (Ladakh), Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Sikkim, the Indian Himalayan states, have implemented the concept of home stays to increase stay options, especially in remote rural areas. The home stays no doubt have created extra income channels for locals. However, the home stays have some limitations that we may slowly realize over a period of time and then we may mull over alternatives. But I have experienced some of these limitations and visualized others. Here is the list:
1. Limited Privacy
Mixing professional and personal life is not always good for the host.
Guests have to adjust with host family’s schedule. Many hosts, for example, expect guests to intimate their daily schedules.
2. Glaring Gap Between Two Lifestyles
A mismatch in the lifestyle of the guest and that of the host leads to conflicts and complexes. Adapting to each other’s lifestyles is not possible during the short stay. Both the parties are therefore forced to adjust. Everyone is not mentally prepared for this adjustment.
3. Social and Cultural Implications
Tourists are generally richer than the local host. This inequality leads to criminal activities in some cases.
Cultural and language differences cause culture shock.
Does homestay really preserve traditional lifestyle of hosts? No. In fact, the host most of the time thinks that the guest is superior to, better than, richer than him/her. And s/he would like to imitate the guests. We cannot ignore this demonstration effect that has long term implications.
4. Festival Seasons
Home stay owners generally do not like to host tourists during festivals and public events. Because the owners expect their relatives during these times.
5. No Advance Booking
The home stay owners prefer walk-in guests to advance bookings. Probably because they neither have resources nor desire to set up a dedicated booking system for one or two rooms.
But some progress has been made on this front. A few online accommodation aggregators let home stay owners to list their rooms. Some educated home stay owners also have their websites for initiating the process of booking.
6. Dependence on Tourism
Complete dependence on tourism is not a healthy practice. Especially, in fragile mountainous destinations where natural calamities, accidents, weather problems directly affect the tourism.
7. Commercialization of Home
Is home stay really a volunteer social exchange or need driven social exchange?
8. Record of Tourist Data
Gathering tourist data and verifying its authenticity is a difficult task.
9. Expectations of Host
Family accommodation is not based on commercial principles although they have commercial goals. If the host family expects guests to share household work, guests may not like it. Some home stay owners expect that visitors host them when they visit their visitors’ village/town/city. Every visitor may not like this exchange request.
10. Availability of Spare Rooms in Local Houses
Everyone does not have a room to spare. So locals who do not have spare rooms they do not get or they get less opportunities to reap benefits of tourism.
11. Availability of Spare Rooms Beyond Tree Line / Snow Line
Beyond snowline, there are hardly any villages to cater to adventure tourists.
12. Domestic Violence and Family Fights
What about the families that have history of unreported domestic violence, disputes within the family members, and liquor issues?
Such families cannot provide a conductive environment for visitors.