Saturday, April 17, 2010

Homing in on farmhouses to boost rural tourism

Rajni Shaleen Chopra
9th April 2010

Encouraged by the success of rural tourism in other parts of the country, Punjab has decided to rejuvenate its initiatives in this field and promote its plush farmhouses as a destination for tourists tired of city life. The Punjab Heritage and Tourism Promotion Board plans to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Mahindra Homestays to professionally train owners of the farmhouses identified by it. The training will be on how to bring their premises on par with the expectations of tourists. These 23 farmhouses had been approved by the board last year as part of its efforts to promote farm tourism.

The company boasts of a partnership with nearly 140 homestays — its 'boutique hotels' — across the country. It has now joined hands with the owners of four farmhouses in Punjab and will provide them marketing support to ensure better business. A homestay is an accommodation provided in a private residence for tourists and is run by the house owner.

Razit Bhandari, Manager (Marketing) of the Punjab Heritage and Tourism Promotion Board, said the board approached Mahindra Homestays to seek help in marketing the farmhouses in a better manner. "We want to promote farm tourism in Punjab. The state's rural appeal is a major selling point among domestic and international tourists, and we wanted the support of a professional concern in helping us seek our objective," he said.

The four farmhouses taken on board by the company are Citrus County near Hoshiarpur, The Retreat near Ropar, Mann Farm House near Fatehgarh Sahib and Jyani Natural Farm near Fazilka. Talking to The Indian Express, Vimla Dorairaju of Mahindra Homestays said: "We had conducted an extensive study in the UK and India about the kind of places that people would like to visit as tourists. In both countries, we found that people had a distinct preference for rural or plantation homes."

Kanwaljit Singh Brar, owner of The Retreat, said he was hoping the tie-up with Mahindra Homestays would give them better business. "We are looking for overseas business, as homestays are very popular in Europe and America."

Vinod Jyani of Jyani Natural Farm and Nartesh Kaur Mann of Mann Farm House, too, agreed that the tie-up would give their properties more exposure.

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