Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gir locals offer instant homestays to meet tourist rush

Gir locals offer instant homestays to meet tourist rush
Times of India By Himashu Kaushik

Archana Khatau came with her family of seven from Indore to tour Gujarat. They failed to get accommodation at Somnath so they headed for Gir, having seen the ads promising tents and rooms.

But when they reached Gir, everything was packed. Till they met Rameshbhai, a local resident who had a bed and breakfast plan ready for them. He let out two rooms of his house for Rs 1,000 a night, after cleaning up the bathrooms and replacing the bed linen. "It was a nice experience to stay in the homes. The locals were too cordial and provided us the facility which matched with the hotels here."

Like Rameshbhai, many beat guards tied up with cab drivers to set up bed and breakfast facilities, anticipating a rush, following the promos featuring brand ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. For instance, a two-storey house just opposite Sinh Sadan, the official guest house of the forest department in Gir, hosted 10 families.

The local residents, sensing the lack of infrastructure at the most sought after destination during the festive season, decided to make some fast cash and hence they rented out portion of their houses to tourists.

At least six to seven locals including a couple of taxi operators, forest guides and beat guards had converted their residences illegally into guest houses. Rameshbhai told TOI, "We are a family of eight people and we decided to accommodate ourselves in one room and the other two were given to tourists." He said that their rates per night began at Rs 500. "But if they wanted a package with food, the charge was over Rs 1000, depending on the number of members," he said.

Rameshbhai's family, during the days they played host, were forced to change their own schedules to make their guests comfortable. "We used to get up early in the morning and finished our routine before the guests got out of their rooms. For those who wished, routine Gujarati food was served."

Mohammad Yusuf, a beat guard, too was among the hosts and let out rooms for Rs 1000 per night. Recalling an incident, he said, "South Indian Aditya Prakash from Chennai, who was staying here, said he wanted to eat Dhokla and we prepared it using the instant mixes available these days. We got it from the nearest town in Talala."

But for Vivek Nair, a resident of Bangalore, it was a horrifying night on Monday. "Failing to get rooms either in the homestays or hotels, we decided to stay in the tents. As the night passed by we could hear the roars of the lions which were so scary that we were afraid to even get out of the tents." He said he had two sleepless nights in the tents as he feared attack.

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