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Middlebury College

Publication Date

Fall 2015

Program Name

India: Sustainable Development and Social Change


Over the last several decades, India has become recognized as a desirable destination for tourists seeking a variety of cultural experiences. The district of Darjeeling located in the northeastern state of West Bengal, which is notorious for its beautiful mountain scenery and world-renowned tea gardens, attracts large levels of domestic and international tourists each year. Recently, a popular trend called “homestay tourism” has emerged in Darjeeling, in which tourists choose to stay in small, family-owned homes rather than in large, commercialized hotels and resorts. This increasing demand for homestays may be explained by recent global social and cultural changes resulting in greater interest and appreciation in cultural heritage, lifestyles and environmental concerns. As a result, homestay ownership has developed as a form of alternative livelihood in both urban and rural areas throughout Darjeeling, with potential for social, cultural, and economic benefits for men as well as women. Previous studies exploring the impacts of tourism on rural communities conclude that the micro- businesses of local homestays provide a multitude of benefits for women, including increased financial stability, employment, improved inter-household relationships, and greater access to various social goods (Hampton, 2003; Anand et al., 2012; Acharya et al., 2013; Mensah et al., 2012). Relying on both qualitative and quantitative methods, this study examined the social, cultural, and economic benefits of rural homestay tourism at the inter-household level in five distinct villages throughout Darjeeling. Using methods of research collection such as personal interviews, focus groups, and ethnographic observation, I explored the extent to which rural homestays are benefiting women in rural areas, and how they are able to utilize resources allocated from owning homestays. In doing so, I discovered that rural homestays benefit women by providing them with a consistent income, increasing their social upliftment, and by providing a catalyst for socioeconomic improvements within their own communities.


Family, Life Course, and Society | Tourism


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