GANGTOK, June 19: As the UNESCO funded Homestay Project in Sikkim is approaching termination by end of the year, the Eco-Tourism and Conservation Society of Sikkim (ECOSS), today organised Sikkim Himalayan Homestay Sustainability Workshop here at Hotel Chumbi Residency.
The workshop sought to discuss the challenges that Homestay operators are facing at the present and surface with necessary remedial measures against the same. Additionally, the workshop also deliberated on the important issue – how will the Homestay operators earn their livelihood after the project lapses.
It may be mentioned here that this is the last year the UNESCO is funding the Sikkim Himalayan Homestay project. The Sikkim Himalayan Homestay Project had its inception in the year 2003 in Sikkim.
However, efforts are underway by ECOSS to further extend the project taking into consideration the need to help more beneficiary groups avail the benefits from the same, besides the exiting ones at Yuksom, Kewzing, Pastanga and Dzongu.
Speaking to one of the executive members of ECOSS, he informed that the aim of the UNESCO funded Sikkim Himalayan Homestay Project is to create employment opportunities for the local populace, mitigate or minimize rural populace to urban areas, alongside restore and revive the traditional values among the local masses.
The challenges faced by Homestay operators on management issues like pricing, billing, persuading visitors, handling complaints, providing services, man power management, marketing, inadequacy of financial assistance, maintaining standards, monitoring the operations and organizing cultural programmes were discussed in detail today.
The workshop also deliberated upon institutional issues embracing institutional members not committed or unable to devote time, Homestay operators not maintaining standards, payment by the institution/ tourism committee to Homestay not in time, villagers not following code of conduct and conflicts with other institutions.
Meanwhile, sustainability issues related to ways and means to make Homestays successful and stainable, the needed help in this regard and what one would advise others-who are trying to start Homestay in their respective villages was also pondered upon elaborately.
The workshop was attended by participants from Rinchenpong, Kaluk, Darap and representatives from Kanchendzonga Conservation Committee (KCC), Kewzing Tourism Development Committee (KTDC), Pastanga Tourism Development Committee and Dzongu Tourism Development Committee. Chairman of ECOSS Loday Chungyalpa, Executive Member, PD Rai and Executive Secretary of ECOSS Renzino Lepcha were also present during the workshop.