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Homestays, a budding tourism industry
Homestays are a new phenomenon, where you get to live with the locals and get a closer peek at their lifestyle and culture. Culinary culture deserves a special mention with a stunning variety of foods on offer, especially the Malnad and Kodagu specialities.

Homestays have sprouted in myriad locations across Karnataka, thanks to the Western Ghats and the rich and fertile plains on either side. 

Bengaluru, around which many picnic spots have sprung up for the weekenders, accounts for more than 400 homestays around a mere 50 km radius. Karnataka’s manifold attractions include wild life sanctuaries at Bandipur, Nagarhole and Dandeli, the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, hill stations like Nandi Hills and Kemmannagundi and Mercara, beach resorts like Karwar and Malpe, the world famous Brindavan Gardens at Krishnarajasagara, the monolithic statue of Gommateshwara at Sharavanabelagola, Gol Gumbaz at Bijapur, the Jog falls at Shiva Samudram, are a few places which showcase but an inkling of the variety that the state has to offer. The coffee countries of Kodagu and Chickmagalur, the wild regions of Sakleshpur, the more popular Mysuru region, are all now the hotspots of homestays, envy of many a posh resort.

 

Weekend getaways

There are said to be more than 10,000 homestays. A decade ago, when these getaways weren’t this happening, there were a mere 150. After reports of misuse of these homestays, the government ordered that all such enterprises must register with the tourist department. 

In August this year the government reduced the water and power charges for homestays. It clarified, “those who own a house with minimum five rooms and reside in the same house are eligible to apply for licence for a homestay.” No government intervention can be fool proof, one homestay hopper said. The tourists must take it upon themselves to ensure that the place is safe. 

Industries Minister R V Deshpande told a conclave that the state “is not all high technology, we have world heritage sites, beaches and wildlife” and called for investment in tourism. A major drawback is air connectivity. The state has one showpiece airport at Bengaluru which caters for international traffic. 

 

Room with a view

There is a homestay in Kusalnagar, Kodagu district, run by a couple born and brought up in Bangalore. Son of doctor parents, the host, an IT professional, was working in the city for 15 years before receiving an offer from a friend to lease his five-acre land in Kusalnagar close to Madikeri. He shifted his family to the site, built a small house and initially cultivated paddy. Soon he grew all his needs in the area, raised milch animals and went organic. Love of nature lured the couple to live as close to mother earth as possible, even growing herbs and exotic fruits, flowers and vegetables and the gobar gas that is needed for running the kitchen. 

The couple lamented about how land prices had skyrocketed in the area in just a matter of a few years. Say you want to buy land with the sole objective of wanting to live peacefully in nature, yet no landowner would believe you. “This is the reason cited by all those coming from Bengaluru and Delhi and then they go on to run a homestay and make money,” the land owners said, pointing to the steep rise in land prices. Our hosts conceded that the demand for homestays have indeed accelerated rapidly and this was but a budding phase for the novel industry. 

So the next time you take a vacay, where would you prefer staying – a five star hotel or a home with a view of five million stars?  

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