Next time you plan a holiday in Kerala, it might just be a good idea to put up at a friendly “home-stay” accommodation provided by an ex-servicemen-run cooperative. It will be safe and economical, besides being your window to the state's culture and tradition.
In the first such experiment in the country, the army has roped in more than 250 ex-servicemen in the state to form a cooperative to help them become home-stay operators and earn from the flourishing tourism sector.
Kerala government expects revenues from the tourism sector to touch Rs 9,000 crore this year, an increase of about 16 per cent over the previous year.
The success of this model can be measured only after the tourist season begins in October but the army is confident. The army has in fact decided to replicate the home-stay concept in the troubled J&K, which accounts for roughly 60,000 ex-soldiers, compared to Kerala's 1.75 lakh.
Tourism generates a revenue of about Rs 1,000 crore for J&K but President APJ Abdul Kalam believes planned development of the sector could bring in around Rs 10,000 crore.
Major General Harwant Krishan, head of the army's resettlement directorate, told the Hindustan Times, "Soldiers are perceived to be honest people and that is why tourists will prefer being their guests. We are developing the home-stay concept with support from the state governments."
The army will provide marketing support to these cooperatives and also tie-up with banks to make cheap loans available to convert existing set-ups into home-stay.
The ex-servicemen cooperative in Kerala is fully functional, having obtained the necessary sanctions for running home-stays, for which a fixed number of rooms have to be set aside for tourists. Facilities like attached toilets, wardrobes, cots and mattresses, power and water supply also have to be in place.