US Rural Communities Could Reap Big Economic Benefits From a Homestay Program

by Joanne Steele on January 19, 2010

Photo taken in Henan Province, China by Peruisay. Link below.

Photo taken in Henan Province, China by Peruisay. Link below.

Many small rural communities throughout the United States and Canada are considering tourism as a way to diversify their economy.

One huge problem that small towns need to solve to move from being day-trip attractions for larger communities is lodging. For many of these rural towns, investment in a multi-unit motel may be too risky, but that isn’t their only overnight option.

In rural Peru and the Henan Province in China, governments have provided incentives and funding to create and market homestay options.

In the United States, we may automatically think “B&B”, but unlike a B&B, a homestay may involve little more than maintaining a clean inviting guest room and setting several extra places at the dinner table.

In a homestay program, visitors are like guests in a resident’s home. Like a guest, the visitor actually lives with the family, sharing common rooms, meals and conversation.

I like staying in B&B’s, but in the United States, B&B’s are more like little boutique hotels.

Many small rural communities have big old rambling family residences that are begging to be part of a homestay program.

On the Internet there is lots of information about homestays including house trading and student stays. But in rural areas worldwide, it is a way to provide overnight accommodations for visitors that brings money into the local economy.

In China, a study of the economic benefit showed that the average Gross Domestic Products of the local rural community jumped from RMB260 per year before 2002 to RMB15,000 per year after the introduction of a homestay program.

It increased attendance at a local World Heritage Site, and surrounding attractions increasing tourism related job opportunities.

Homestay providers can go through organizations that specialize in connecting them with visitors. And, of course, everyone has the option to accept a homestay guest or not.

The kind of economic growth seen in China gives one some food for thought.

Did this post get you thinking? Check out some of our other Rural Economic Development ideas.

Peruisay’s photostream

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