George Abraham, Proprietor, Stayhomz Pvt. Ltd., a renowned plantation tourism promoter & author, talked about the history of plantation tourism and how it has evolved over the years. Plantation tourism is relatively new in the Indian market but the concept has been prevalent in the states of Kerala and Karnataka since decades. Of late, many North Eastern states have started offering the product. The plantation homestay experience is more about deeper cultural engagement as the host stays in the house while exploring the natural environment and listening to local shared narratives.
Abraham said that he comes from a rubber and tea planting community who reached Koottickal valley in 1910 from the neighbouring plains. He said that his entry into plantation Tourism was in 2003 after closely associating with rubber trade, purely out of passion for travelling to the hills. Today, unique and well-restored heritage bungalows in Southern India right from Saklespur to Munnar as well as the rubber and cardamom, pepper, coffee, state properties in Kottayam, Idukki, Ernakulam district and Wynaad sell more than 200 per room nights which is a very heartening trend.
Abraham then talked about experiential travel, which is one of the most talked about term in tourism. It is more about authenticity. Without being passionate one cannot find authentic experiences to offer guests. He said that they offer guests with privacy, local knowledge, homely food, sense of security, personalised attention and ample of natural space to play around at their own pace. Couples or families can relax in lovely bungalows amidst 1000 acres of pristine land around them. Private treks, picnics and safaris are also on offer.
Guests come from the UK and Germany. There is also good response from the corporate crowd from Bangalore and Delhi.