Recently, RC Panaji Riviera, RID 3170, organised a one-day seminar for rural women from Self Help Groups (SHG) in Goa to educate them on the opportunity now available to boost their income by offering homestays. Ryan Costa, vocational chair of the club, said that the Goa government is now promoting village tourism in a bid to boost the tourism sector.
“Apart from providing travellers with a unique cultural experience this move will help locals make some extra money. The idea of a Goa vacation has undergone a transformation. Tourists now want to experience local life, enjoy authentic seafood and relax on a clean, quiet beach,” he says. In this new milieu, homestays are now the preferred option as they are pocket-friendly and add to the travelling experience.
The club in association with WICCI Rural Tourism Council and Goa State Rural Livelihood Mission (GSRLM) hosted the Eco-friendly Homestay seminar for representatives from 25 SHGs from across Goa. Mini Ribeiro, state president of WICCI Rural Tourism Council, says that “though the women are enthusiastic about hosting guests, they have a lot more to learn because this isn’t only about providing a room to stay; it’s also about linked services that travellers expect.
The seminar included sessions on documentation and licensing for homestay businesses, challenges involved, customer care, digital marketing, government schemes and loans to start a homestay, and basic décor ideas. Ribeiro says it was important for the women to understand that a homestay “is like having a whole ecosystem. If one or two women have homestays in a particular village, other women can exhibit cane or other crafts specific to that village. Those who are good at cooking or making food products can provide a culinary experience and this will help the entire village. By helping each other and collaborating, they can have a new source of livelihood.”
Calling it “good use of tourism to create jobs and opportunities,” Costa says that “homestays promote advances inclusion by empowering rural women and putting villages on the tourism map. Tourism can also play a vital role in preserving and promoting natural and cultural heritage while reducing migration from the villages.”
Pravena Gaonkar, who runs a homestay at Dongurli village in North Goa, found the seminar very informative. The digital marketing session “was the most interesting and I have taken notes to improve my marketing plan. All my guests appreciate my homestay and love the food I serve. Now I will start an Instagram page and ask my guests to send a review so others can also see it and I hope I will get more guests.”
Shilpa Sawant, another participant, says “I am ready to change my house into a homestay. They say Atithi Devo Bhava (guest is like god) and this time the athiti will bring us Lakshmi. The initial investment will be a little difficult but I am sure with the help of my SHG and the government schemes available I will be able to start soon.” Is she comfortable making changes to her village home for her guests? “Yes. If the change is going to help me pay my child’s school fees and lead a better life, why not?”
Raghavendra Shetiya, president of RC Panaji Riviera, says, “Our focus is to empower these rural women with the required skills and tools to run a sustainable business, which in turn will help the state government realise its goal of making Goa an all-round tourism destination.”