Speakers of the 1st Homestays of the World Summit in Bacolod City ended the first day of the conference on a high note, optimistic that the homestay industry will soon take off in the Philippines once systems are in place.
The first day of the conference focused on the success stories of three countries with strong homestay industries – Malaysia, France, and Portugal.
Malaysia is considered the leader of homestay programs in Southeast Asia, with more than 350,000 domestic and foreign tourists availing of homestay options in 2013. Meanwhile, a French homestay group, Gites de France, has about 60,000 homestay accommodations in its registry. Portugal’s Solares de Portugal, on the other hand, focuses on the higher end market.
In each of the countries, homestays are developed to serve different purposes. In Malaysia, for instance, homestays are instrumental in cross-cultural understanding, while in Portugal, the program is pushed since it helps fund and preserve old houses.
During the press conference, Dr. Mina Gabor, president of International School of Sustainable Tourism and among the organizers, said homestays in the Philippines would particularly address three sets of demand. Firstly, opening the doors of houses in destinations would help increase the room count during peak season, such as festivals.
Secondly, Gabor said more entrepreneurs and salesmen are requiring low-cost accommodation options.
Thirdly, homestay would address the rising trend where travelers seek local and authentic experiences.
According to speakers, the homestay experience has evolved from an accommodation option to now a tourism product. This opens more entrepreneurial opportunities for communities.
Most of the attendees in the conference are local government tourism officers. Informal surveys with them reveal high interest in homestay as a product to be offered to visitors.
However, there are issues that need to be addressed, including security, taxation, business licenses, financing, distribution, and regulation. These concerns will be tackled in the rest of the conference.