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Ghoomakad, Indian Himalayas
IRTA 2018 Gold Winner, Family-Owned Homestay
Developed by a family in the village of Rakkar, near Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh, Ghoomakad offers co-living in a traditional mud-house setting with a co-working space, a 20+ seater studio with reliable internet and power. The judges were taken by the way in which organic farming and waste management and recycling have been turned into activities for guests; and by the survival camp experience which enables guests to connect with nature and mountains and to learn about them and about themselves. This is a homestay in a village in the mountains, which offers young techies an opportunity to experience village life. Offering a village life experience with modern technology enables Ghoomakad to attract guests keen to take a bath in the mountain stream, work on the internet during the day and enjoy the cultural life and peace of the village at night.
IRTA 2018 Silver Winner, Community-Owned Homestays & Agri-Tourism
Demul Village Homestays was started in 2004 with the help of the Spiti based social enterprise Ecosphere in order to diversify livelihood opportunities ion a community otherwise dependent on agriculture in an environment where only one crop can be produced each year, during the six months of winter temperature often drop below 30⁰C. The judges were impressed by the scale of what has been achieved in Demul. There are 55 households in the village, 48 of them have had a room converted to a guest room, guests living with the family. Using traditional patterns of village governance guests are allocated to homestays on a rotational basis and at the end of each year the money is distributed equally amongst all of the homestays, the cooperation avoids the damaging impact of excessive competition and falling room rents.
IRTA 2018 Silver Winner, Best Boutique
Recently constructed in the Himachali style with wood-panelled and mud-plastered walls, the Meena Bagh Shimla reflects the local culture in music, food, architecture and hospitality. They encourage writers and artists to stay and work in the Meena Bagh offering a 50% discount. The resort harvests rainwater, recycles grey water and biodegradable waste, solar heats its hot water and uses LED lights throughout and the property is fully thermal and sound insulated. Only waste wood was used for the panelling and the furniture, local people built the property and have subsequently been employed to run the resort.
IRTA 2019 Gold Winner, Best Adventure, and Overall Winner
Himalayan Expeditions offers opportunities to explore the nature and culture of less visited parts of the Himalayas. Himalayan Ecotourism is a co-operative society engaging individuals from 72 families in villages in the buffer zone of the Great Himalayan National Park offering the experience of travelling with locals – for example to travel from Delhi to Leh by road rather than flying. 20% of turnover is profit for the co-operative. The co-operative is the operating company managed by the partners who work as mountain guides, cooks and porters. Much of their profit is used to support eco-development. The porters carry loads of no more than 20kg. The trekking staff have been trained at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and operate as teams of ten
The judges recognised the good practices of the GHNP Community Based Ecotourism Cooperative Society in its tour operations, the use of local community expertise and the strength of the marketing and management partnership with the commercial firm Himalayan Eco-Services and Products. The mountain guides, cooks and porters are now partners in the co-operative and no longer sell themselves as day labourers. Himalayan Ecotourism is working with village women to develop value-added products for sale hand-made soaps with apricot oil, local fruit jams, chutney & pickles, and felted wool products. They have trained and developed female trekking guides. The co-operative is working to raise awareness of the damage caused by intentional and repetitive forest fires and promoting and encouraging the use of clean wood stoves and solar cookers
The judges recognise the co-operative structure linked with a more internationally oriented marketing and management company, but with guaranteed profits for the staff owned co-operative as a model for tourism development which ensures local benefits and control, empowers local communities and provides a viable route to market as a model which could, and should, be replicated.
IRTA 2019 'One to Watch', Best Wildlife
Developed by a vegetable seller in his century-old home, the guests eat with the family on a traditional homestay fashion. There is no local association of homestays nor organised visits with other families or associations in the village.