Homestays operators look for succour as people stay home

Several homestay owners in popular destinations such as Chikamagaluru, Kodagu and Uttara Kannada in Karnataka, and Wayanad, Idukki and Ernakulam in Kerala were probably earning a higher income than their mainstay activity of farming or plantation ...

Bengaluru: Hundreds of homestay operators in the tourism hubs of Karnataka and Kerala, whose businesses were flourishing till recently, are now looking for succour as the Covid-19 pandemic has forced their potential customers stay put at home, triggering a wave of cancellations.

Several homestay owners in popular destinations such as Chikamagaluru, Kodagu and Uttara Kannada in Karnataka, and Wayanad, Idukki and Ernakulam in Kerala were probably earning a higher income than their mainstay activity of farming or plantation until this spring, thanks to a steady flow of tourists seeking budget accommodation.

Now, they don’t expect the business to pick up anytime soon with coronavirus infections still rising in the country, and local, interstate and international movement of people remaining crippled. Even if the government opens up the tourism sector, people would continue to nurse a sense of fear for some time, they say.


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“Both homestay owners and travellers will stay away from each other until the fear goes,” said Narasimha Bhat, who runs a homestay at Joida in Uttara Kannada. “Even if we want to do business, villagers are unlikely to accept outsiders suspecting them to be carriers of the virus.”

It is a double-whammy for homestays in cold, hilly destinations as many have invested on makeovers before the onset of their peak summer season.

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Many homestays in Kodagu, a region draped in coffee plantations, for instance, had invested heavily to erase the scars from massive flash floods two years ago. “Life was returning to normal and many people borrowed money to build everything anew,” said BG Ananthashayana, president of Coorg Homestays Association.

“We eagerly awaited our first batch of summer guests, but here we are fighting a pandemic, instead,” he said.

Some homestay owners have approached the government to bail them out with some cash doles and tax waivers. “There is no question of giving compensation to home-stays,” Karnataka tourism minister CT Ravi told ET. “We will, however, help them to get cheap loans and working capital support from banks.”

In Kerala, at least half of the 1,500 registered homestays spread across its verdant hills, beaches and towns are dependent solely on income from tourists. “What we are going through is just a temporary phase,” said MP Sivadathan, director of Kerala Homestay and Tourism Society.

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“When the business resumes, we want to highlight how well the government fought back Covid-19 with emphasis on hygiene standards, to inspire confidence in our guests,” he said. The state government has announced that homestays can borrow up to `1 lakh at an interest rate of about 7% from cooperative banks.

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