Homestays are a tourism product being developed and promoted in number of countries including the Philippines to extend the benefits from the tourism industry to rural households. Most homestay programs are linked to agrotourism especially in the neighboring South East Asian countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. Visitors usually come to experience the rural lifestyle of a community in which farming is an integral part. As such, planning and developing a homestay program must also incorporate agrotourism planning. Several countries in the region are in various stages of developing homestays as a tourism product. This is one of the model that Costales Nature Farms, the 1st Agritourism Destination in the Philippines, accredited by Department of Tourism. Some are purely private entrepreneurial initiatives, while others are initiated by the government together with local communities. Malaysia has the biggest and most successful homestay program among countries in Asia.
Other countries are also keen to develop their own homestay program. However, in many countries, the development of homestay program has not been fully explored because of the lack of knowledge of rural communities and rural development extension personnel in planning and managing such enterprises. There is a need to create awareness of these potential enterprises that could stimulate the development of related enterprises such as food and handicraft-based businesses. The development of homestays and agrotourism will contribute to rural job creation and thus to increased incomes of rural households, revitalization of rural economies, and more inclusive development.
OBJECTIVES IN JOINING THE TRAINING COURSE
• To enhance my knowledge and skills on useful tools for planning and managing homestay and agrotourism enterprises and programs; and,
• To be exposed to best practices and successful homestay and agrotourism models in Malaysia.
EVALUATION OF THE CONTENT
The topics successfully covered during the seminar are as follows:
• Global and regional trend in tourism development and opportunities and challenges for Asian countries;
• Tourism industry development in Malaysia and Key drivers of Success;
• Features of the Malaysian homestay program;
• Opportunities and challenges in homestay enterprises in other Asian countries;
• Basic tools in planning and managing homestay and agrotourism enterprises;
• Quality and safety standards for homestays;
• Marketing and promotion of homestay and agrotourism enterprises;
• Pricing and community benefit sharing;
• Risk management in homestay programs; and
• Capacity development needs for homestay and agrotourism enterprises
The topics above clearly outlines significant information for homestays and agrotourism that every practitioner – private or public, government person, representative from the academe, must know prior to engaging in this tourism product. All the speakers were all from Malaysia (Muda Agricultural Devt Authority, Ministry of Agriculture, Malaysian Homestay Association, Ministry of tourism and Culture Malaysia, Malaysian Productivity Corp). While the content focuses purely on Malaysian settings, the majority of the learnings can also be applied in other neighboring Asian countries. The first 2 days of the seminar were spent during lectures in the hotel while the other 3 days were spent on immersion programs at the Pulau Pisang homestay. Another 1 day was spent for agrotourism site visits.
EVALUATION OF DELIVERY
All the speakers were deeply involved in the nationwide campaign of Malaysia about homestay and agritourism. Some are from the government and some are from private/community sector. Leanings were not only from the resource speakers but from the seminar participants as well who have diverse experience about homestay and agrotourism. Most importantly, aside from the lectures, an immersion program was experienced by all seminar attendees by living with the villagers in a homestay community. This is the best part of the program.
APPLICABILITY OF THE PROJECT
Homestay and Agritourism perfectly fit the Philippines setting. The countries’ most abundant resources are agricultural lands. Farmers need supplementary income outside food production especially in rice farming. Besides, farmers do not stay in the farm for 8 straight hours to tend to their crops, thus, they have spare time to spend in agrotourism. Key to the success of this project is promotion, which the government can do to support farmers. Initially, we can target domestic tourist while building expertise. Lakbay –aral trips of students and LGU’s must start with our own agrotourism.
Finally, we can tap foreign tourist and capitalize on Asian Economic Integration next year.
The most significant part of the learning was the actual encounter/immersion program during our homestay in Pulau Pisang. A homestay community organized by Muda Agricultural Devt. Authority. Upon arrival, all the villagers gathered to welcome all the visitors. Visitors were given garlands and gifts eg. traditional Malaysian dress eg. Malong, which will eventually worn by visitors in a special welcome program. Cultural dances performed by the villagers were authentic Malaysian culture. Each visitor participant were assigned and introduced to their poster parents, to whom they will stay for 3 days. Some of the poster parents(homestay operators) can understand English but others can hardly communicate in English. Homestay facilities vary in sizes and amenities. Some have individual comfort rooms and same shared with the house owners. Some have aircon rooms but majority were not. Visitors eat with the homestay owners, chat with them and sleep in separate rooms.
During daytime, agritourism activities are experienced by visiting participants. Some of the activities are cooking native Malaysian food, fish trapping, rice planting and batik painting. There are even activities where visiting participants compete with each other in some farm activities. The villagers have also collection of antique farm implements that they show to tourists.
Visiting tourists will have a clearer idea about how farming technologies evolved from past to present. The innovativeness and creativity of the villagers to come up with very simple but very informative farming activities is highly commendable. The Malaysian government is fully supporting the agritourism efforts by promoting globally and subsidizing some of the amenities of homestay eg. activity hall, public comfort rooms.
There is no wonder why the farmers in Malaysia are not considered marginalized. They are financially liberated. They reap the benefit and enjoy the successful marriage of agriculture and tourism.
• Immediately plan and implement learnings at Costales Nature Farms in the next 3 months;
• Share the learnings to farmers, local government units, law makers, private practitioners through seminars, workshops and various forums;
• Cooperate with various government agencies like Department of Agriculture and Department of Tourism to develop policies that will lead to rapid development, implementation and adaptation of homestay and agritourism to attain inclusive growth especially in the rural communities.
RONALD C. COSTALES
Costales Nature Farms