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Going Beyond Hospitality

As an increasing number of travelers are preferring homestays over hotels, it’s not surprising that farms all over the world have emerged as a popular accommodation option. Indeed, a simple Google search reveals a large number of choices for people who prefer the comforts of a farm during their travels.

While World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, or WWOOF, has long represented the most popular option for travelers looking for nature-based accommodation, it is far from the only one. Numerous community-based ecotourism initiatives have sprung up throughout the world, such as countries like Thailand, Colombia and Nicaragua. A successful example of farm-based homestay program is the Wayanad district of the Indian state of Kerala — where a Bamboo Village created by residents of Thrikkaipetta has welcomed a large number of international visitors from around the world. The local NGO and the Bamboo Village’s management launched a cooperative that has provided additional income for farmers, created jobs for local residents and represented an opportunity for travelers to engage in ethical tourism.

Residents of Wayanad turned to community-based ecotourism as a source of revenue as the farming industry has been devastated by the declining market prices for crops. The Bamboo Village grants visitors the opportunity to stay with local families, eat locally made food on the homestay’s farms and participate in cultural exchange events. And more important, roughly 50% of the money paid for a homestay is reinvested into the community and is used for training, youth projects and sustainable tourism development.

But even farmers in wealthier countries are opening up their farms to visitors. Oregon farmers, Scottie and Greg Jones, say their cabin is full roughly 60% of the year and money from visitors represents a significant revenue stream. Although Scottie Jones had said there are more people wanting to participate in a farm stay than there are availablilities, only 350 farms in the United States offer this option – which is a great contrast from the United Kingdom, where 24% of farms offer lodging. However, as the agriculture and recreation services provided by more than 23,000 farms have been valued at $566 million, expect farm owners to turn to homestays as a way of stuffing their coffers.

Finally, ecofarms have been getting in on the act of providing homestays to travelers. One such location is the Yurt Farm in Wales, which is a member of the Cambrian Mountains Initiative, which strives to promote rural enterprise and enhance the state of rural communities. An environmentally-friendly stay at the Yurt Farm treats guests to vegetables and eggs grown on the farm, organic tea and organic mattresses.

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