Homestays a hit with tourists in Khajuraho

A total of 20 homestays in this historical place, registered under the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board, offer grand welcome to visitors from all over the world. A report by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi

On her first visit to Khajuraho, a UNESCO world heritage site famous for its temples, Anne Violle was keen to explore the place intently. As a solo traveller from France, Violle chose to spend her days at a homestay rather than a fancy hotel.

Over the past few years, the Mini Homestay situated on Lalguwan Road and about 15-minute walk from the Western Group of temples in Khajuraho, has been a huge hit with budget-conscious tourists who are assured of clean rooms and good food at affordable rates. The place has a welcoming feel with bright yellow walls, swings, pink bougainvillea blooms, open space for relaxation at the back and eye-catching wall paintings urging people to experience travel.

During a chat at breakfast, Gausia Khan informed that her family started the homestay before the Covid-19 lockdown. “Many foreigners come and stay here with us. It feels nice to serve guests who come to Khajuraho
from all over the world. Many of them come from Orchha, a nearby destination. At present, there are only a few rooms and a dormitory. The women of the house cook together for the visitors.”

A home-like feel

Winter is the best time to visit Khajuraho, one of the most prominent tourist destinations in the Bundelkhand region, spanning several districts in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Summers are harsh here.

At the Mini Homestay, it is usually Lalan Khan who takes care of the guests. “Sometimes, so many tourists come here during the peak season of December-January that it becomes difficult for us to allot rooms to everyone,” said Khan,who worked for several years in the Madhya Pradesh tourism sector before retirement.

“At this homestay, my family really takes care of tourists,” Khan added as he recalled a training programme in tourism arranged by the state government for three weeks which he attended.

Khan is adept at handling visitors and seeing to their various demands, thanks to his stint in tourism where he interacted with many guests and dignitaries. “Now, many local people of Khajuraho speak good English and interact easily with foreign tourists. But at that time neither English was widely spoken here nor homestays were popular.”

At the Mini Homestay, room rates range from Rs 500 to Rs 800 with breakfast. Some guests can also leave behind their luggage or wait in a room for a few hours even after checkout.

Khan, who gained experience in the tourism sector for over a decade, earned much appreciation for his work. “This homestay was started after I retired from service. I have learnt many things in the course of my work. I know how to wait at tables, serve guests and hold interesting conversations with visitors.”

The Khan family’s ancestral village is 10 km away from Khajuraho. It is a hilly place called Achnar. “The people of this place love to welcome guests. Many locals actually build special places to welcome visitors.”

A melting pot

Like Violle, Alejandra Huerta from Mexico also chose to stay with the Khan family on her first visit to India. “I was keen to travel here. My aunt, who adopted the Hindu religion, talked a lot about this country. She got married at a very young age.” Huerta chose a homestay as it is a great way to meet and know local people and learn about their lifestyle.

Argentinian Pablo Fabian, who has lived in Europe for almost 20 years, is fond of seeing the world while working. Fabian has travelled to India six times and has experienced life in metro cities like Delhi and Kolkata.

“I choose homestays because they are affordable. People who are working and travelling together don’t always want to spend money on hotels. Foreigners spend a lot of money on tours and guides and that may be another reason why so many prefer homestays.”

For Pablo, who has also stayed at hotels in Khajuraho, there is not much of a difference between the two. He feels that hotels may work well for families though.

Lena Ziegler, who is from Germany but grew up in Russia, finds India an interesting country worth exploring, especially historical places like Agra. Ziegler came to know about the homestay online. She pointed out a few problems too. “Indian food is generally spicy even if people say it is not. The pollution level and dust are also quite high.”

Khajuraho received 3,25,779 tourists in 2022. Many people who visit the place also make it a point to visit the Panna National Park and the Ken Gharial Wildlife Sanctuary, known for beautiful forests and good wildlife sightings. Villages nearby also offer interesting colours into local life.

Under the safe tourism destination project for women aimed at maximising the female workforce, the Madhya Pradesh tourism board is supporting homestays which offer friendly experiences to solo travellers, especially women, who love to explore all alone, said Manoj K Singh, director, Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board. At present, there are 20 registered homestays in Khajuraho. There are also homestays exclusively run and managed by women in Orchha, about 170 away. Homestays are also boosting rural tourism in Madhya Pradesh.