Thursday, 30 October 2014

Homestay Philippines, Inc.

Dr. Mina T. Gabor
In the 1990s, then DOT undersecretary (and later Secretary) Dr. Mina T. Gabor, HPI founder and ISST president was inspired by the unique concept of homestays during her visits to Paradores (Spain) and the Pousadas (Portugal), some of the best known affordable chain of traveler accommodations in the world.  This inspired her to have something similar established in the Philippines but more attuned to the country’s lifestyle. According to Dr. Gabor, “Homestays are homes away from home.”  

Now a popular trend in 37 countries worldwide, local residents accommodates tourists as transients in their houses for a particular period. A lot of travelers, aside from requiring more affordable accommodations, demand the same amenities they have at home and many prefer homestaying.  In doing so, they also get to learn the language, lifestyles and real culture of the country or place where they are staying. In 2011, homestaying began earning acceptance in the Philippines. 

A homestay is a living arrangement wherein a host family or organization offers extra private room or space, at a reasonable rate, for an out-of-town guest. An unoccupied room in a house, the whole house, apartment, condominium, campsite, or a restored cultural or historical site can qualify as homestay accommodation. 
Ms. Corazon Alma G. De Leon
On May 2008, Dr. Gabor, Dr. Alberto Fenix, Mr. Felipe M. Nava, Ms. Beatrice Franco and Ms. Alessandra Marie Libongco established Homestay Philippines, Inc., a private-led corporation composed of stakeholders in the hotel and airline industries that will market homestay accommodations, located in an initial list of 29 tourist areas, to local and international students, families and visitors needing comfortable and affordable accommodations, specially during vacations. Its role is to match guests and host family, provide advice and financial assistance, and conduct site inspection as well as training and monitoring.  

To be part of the HPI homestay program, interested parties must apply with the HPI subsidiary, the Homestay Philippine Services Cooperative (HPSC) and should have certain traits before they will be considered as homestay franchisees. Gabor said they will also hired a food specialist to ensure the food served to the tourist would be authentic. 
The host family or organization is expected to extend the world-renowned Filipino warmth and hospitality, providing clean and well-lighted rooms with basic amenities, ensuring guest’s safety and security, and complying with the quality set forth by the HPI. The homestay program thus allows guests to learn the lifestyle and culture of the community plus it further provides income and job opportunities for local residents. This interesting thrust thus maximizes the tourism potentials of rural areas which cannot take in as much tourists and guests because of lack of hotels and pension houses. 
Many host families, according to Mr. Alberto Fenix, HPI Chairman, earn money in Asia and Europe by providing safe, comfortable, accessible and affordable accommodations. According to Dr. Gabor, existing monthly rates for homestay packages are from US$500 to US$1,000.
According to former Department of Social Work and Development  (DSWD) Secretary and now HPSC President Corazon Alma G. De Leon, the coop will screen and train host families to meet and maintain standards before they become part of the HPSC chain.  Franchise applicant should be respected in the community and knowledgeable about the area and their accommodation should be near a hospital and have good security measures. If necessary, a site inspection by a team from HPS Cooperative will be scheduled. Spot inspection of the homestay accommodation will also be conducted every six months to ensure that the member-establishments maintain quality service.  Homestay dwellings will be classified under six categories: nature/ecotourism, heritage, cultural/festival, beach, city and sports/adventure. 
Homestay Philippines, Inc.: Website: www.homestayphilippines.com.ph.  

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