The tourism department’s latest idea to rope in locals to revive the flagging tourist numbers in the state seems to have fallen flat with hardly any takers among the public. Named ‘bed and breakfast’, the scheme was announced in November 2012 and it invited the public to rent out their homes to tourists. The department had extensively advertised this ‘homestay’ programme hoping to get a good response from locals. However, to their dismay, the department received only three filled-in applications till date, including two from Hyderabad and one from Rajahmundry. According to the officials, the programme was initiated to encourage cultural exchange, with tourists staying in local households. The department had planned to popularise it through their websites once the registration of the houses was done. A six-member committee was also constituted to oversee the smooth implementation of this scheme, inspect and give approval for these homes.
But unlike in Kerala, where a similar concept has been successful, residents of the state did not warm to the idea of opening their homes to strangers. The scheme had also specified that at least one member of the family should know English and the home should not be used for any other commercial purpose. “This is a new concept and will take some time to sink in,” said Kantilal Dande, director, AP Tourism. “Once people start understanding its advantages, it will be a success on the lines of Goa and Kerala. Apart from cultural exchange, this can also be a source of livelihood in fringe areas where there are no proper accommodation options,” he added. Some experts attribute the failure of the scheme to low tourist inflows. “This concept is a hit only in places which records a large number of tourists round the year. Here, we do not see such high number of visitors. In fact, the number of tourists has dipped since the past of couple of years due to various social and political reasons,” said a hotel industry expert. This is not the first time that the department has tried something like this. A similar scheme was floated in 2001 but was soon done away with. “At that time, around 63 units had registered for the scheme they soon pulled out. Most of them had thought of it as a lucrative business option but lost interest when it did not work out that way,” said a department official.