Community homestay tourism has been around for many years and yet, the low market demand has been a big challenge for homestay organisations. In Malaysia and Thailand for example, homestays have been established in regional villages for over 25 years now. Many philanthropic travel agencies have already included homestay services in their travel packages. However, getting enough number of visitors has been a big challenge for them. Understandably, tourists are presented with several tour options. Apparently, homestay tourism has not been a popular choice.
I had the most wonderful opportunity to undertake a homestay expedition in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia. In my travels, I have come to the conclusion that homestay tourism needs to be distinguished from other forms of tourism.
Firstly, there is the glamorous side of tourism. This is the space allocated for mainstream and tourist-oriented products and services. This side highlights the unique, the spectacular and the extravagant places and experiences. In contrast, homestay tourism provides basic services and amenities only, particularly as it reflects economic and cultural conditions of the villagers. It focuses on social interactions rather than the physical environment. Confusing homestay tourism as occupying this glamorous side result in failed expectations. The opportunity to enjoy rural and remote lifestyle is reduced as it is overshadowed with concerns for convenience and safety. The visitor perception of homestays not meeting basic tourism standards jeopardises their reputation and compromises its potential to penetrate the global tourism market.
Likewise, there is the other side of tourism where we find host-oriented tourist activities that are more culturally and socially immersed. These activities promote travel for the purpose of contributing for community development. For example, tourists support disadvantaged communities through volunteer tourism, slum tourism and orphanage tourism. Such programs focus on the problems. In contrast, homestay tourims focuses on opportunties. They highlight the natural and built heritage, environmental resources, social networks and local manpower that make their villages worth visiting. While homestays occupy the other side of tourism, it must not be reduced to just another community development project which compromises the awareness of the potentials and opportunities.
A few months ago, I spent a few days living with one of the host families at Banteay Chhmar Homestays. I am impressed at the hospitality and authenticity of the people there. Thanks to their CBT President, Sopheng Khlout for the meaningful and friendly conversations. Your community is certainly worth visiting and worth supporting! So why do we need to support homestay organisations? Sopheng reveals three reasons why. Watch this video.
Dr. Rowee Delgado, Program Director | Community Homestay Tourism Network
Tags:Community based tourism, ecotourism, homestay, Social tourism, tourism, travel