KOCHI: Even though Ernakulam is popular for its attractive homestays, only a few of them have obtained the classification given by the Tourism Department. The study conducted by Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR) reveals only 20 per cent of homestays in Ernakulam comes under the classified category.
As per the statistics available with the Kerala Home Stay and Tourism Association, the number of classified homestays in Kochi is just 65, while the number of non-classified homestays runs to more than 300. For starting operations, homestay owners have to get licences from the Department of Tourism for classification based on criteria such as room number and size, fluency in English by at least one of the family members, through an online procedure.
“However, the travel booking websites show that visitor ratings are higher for many non-classified homestays than those approved as classified by the Department of Tourism. The interviews with foreign tourists disclose that they select homestays based on visitor ratings in the travel websites, which, in turn, are based on criteria like homely environment, cleanliness, friendly behaviour, value for money, services, location etc.
Thus, it can be deduced that the selection of homestays by foreign tourists does not depend on the classification of the homestays by the Department of Tourism,” CPPR study reveals. Once accredited with the Department of Tourism, homestays with two or more rooms are charged a luxury tax of 0.5 percent. They also pay a commercial tariff for water and electricity.
Local Self Governments charge additional taxes on homestays for procuring the ownership certificate. Along with these, classified homestays have to get the FSSAI license. Consequently, homestays turn into business units, resulting in the loss of a homely environment that the policy intends.Kerala Homestays and Tourism Society (Kerala HATS) director M P Sivadattan said there are around 3,000 homestays in Kerala, of which less than 500 comes under the classification of the Tourism Department.
“The classification is provided by the Tourism Department while the license is given by local self-governing body. For receiving the classification, the homestays should have a license from the local self-government and registration from the FRRO and FSSAI. When we approach for a license, officers in the panchayat claim we are engaged in commercial activity. Water and electricity bills have to be paid according to the commercial tariff. Then the Labour Department comes into the scene. A pollution control board clearance has to be received. Later we have to pay professional tax for running homestays. With this overload of procedures, the majority of homestays prefer to run without licence or classifications,” he said.
Kerala HATS has approached the state government with the request that one governing body be given authority to provide licence and the classification, and that an order be brought out that homestays not be considered a commercial activity.
“A majority of the foreign tourists prefer homestays as they come here to experience the villages in India. Even though government also recommends more homestays to attract tourists, it could not come out with a favourable decision by which homestays can be started and operated with ease,” he said.