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6 Jul 2021 | KSL

Enjoying homebased unique experiences in the majesty of the HKH mountains

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Photo: Kamal Aryal/ICIMOD.

Going from individual to regional approaches for ecotourism homestay development promises to benefit tourism operators and communities across the Kangchenjunga landscape

Enjoying homebased unique experiences in the majesty of the HKH mountains

Tourism has long been a vital livelihood option for mountain communities. Through our transboundary landscape initiatives, we have been promoting ecotourism approaches which have included developing homestays, where tourists can experience local culture and cuisine and where community members can experience an appreciation for the uniqueness of their localities. At a Homestay Congress held in Eastern Nepal held in February, homestay operators, government officials, and private sector and non-government organization representatives identified the need to create an umbrella organization focused on enabling policy, and ensuring greater research and improved infrastructure for homestay development within and across the region; sharing of knowledge and experiences regarding best practices of homestay operation within the region; and branding and harmonizing products to promote homestays. The interactions during the congress highlighted the need for and importance of engaging women and youth to reap the benefits of homestays and emphasized the need to focus on the development of immersive experiences in nature and culture; cross learning among homestay operators on forward linkages such as marketing strategies, branding, harmonization, and packaging of homestay products; and the development of participatory methods by governments in formulating policies that provide an enabling environment for scaling up homestays.

As a first step in promoting transboundary regional tourism circuits, several India-based tourism associations expressed interest and commitment to coordinate with eastern Nepal-based tourism associations, homestay management committees, and communities to promote circuit tourism among Eastern Nepal, Sikkim and West Bengal in India, and Bangladesh. In Nepal, we are collaborating with the Red Panda Network, Namobuddha Samaj Tumling, and Community Homestay Network to develop a community homestay circuit in Eastern Nepal and West Bengal. In Bhutan, our discussions with the Tourism Council of Bhutan and Community Homestay Network have focused on promoting and strengthening community homestay management.

The tourism sector faces significant challenges amid the global pandemic, so mountain communities of the HKH require specific solutions for effective recovery.
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