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Coorg planters brew success in home stays

Vishwanath Kulkarni

Bangalore , Nov. 5

COFFEE planter Micky Kalappa is getting over the hardships caused by the prevailing coffee price crisis in a refreshing way. He has turned the bungalow in his 40-acre Polaycad Estate at Ammathi in southern Coorg into a home stay, mostly frequented by employees of the booming IT industry from nearby Bangalore.

Not surprisingly, Mr Kalappa's home stay cottage, Sand Banks, has competition from other estate owners, distressed by low coffee prices. Mr Kalappa admits that though the idea struck him way back in 1988-89, he could turn it into reality only in the year 2002 after a brief corporate job stint.

Though initially, he considered this business idea only to help him keep in touch with the outer world, he was actually pushed into it because of the economics of the situation. And in the last one year, Mr Kalappa has played host to more than 250 visitors. Earnings from this novel venture are helping his family to tide over the crisis, said Mr Kalappa.

"Coorg is witnessing a home stay boom since last 12-18 months as many planters are opening up their sprawling estate bungalows and playing host to outside tourists," said Mr Shashi Kumar of Holiday Mantra, a marketing firm that sells home stay packages. In his estimate, there are close to 500 such home stays, but many planters, for fear of attracting the taxman's attention abstain from publicity.

"Home stays are somewhat off-beat as compared to spending a weekend in typical resorts and that's what attracts the IT guys," Mr Shashi Kumar said. "Business is all by word of mouth," he said, adding it's difficult to find a place during long weekends. Over 60 per cent of the visitors who throng these places are IT guys whereas the remaining are both domestic and overseas tourists, he said.

This holiday concept also offers additional features such as a discerning insight into the local culture, cuisine and an experience of estate life, said Mr Victor Dey, Director, Aswati Plantations, who has been running a high-end plantation hideaway at Wayanad in Kerala.

He felt that though converting estate bungalows for planters into home stays would mean a distinct invasion on their privacy; it does help in broadening one's perspective.

While plantation owners in Coorg have been quick to cash in on the opportunity, their counterparts in Chikmagalur, South Kanara and North Kanara, which have a major potential by virtue of being nestled in the Western Ghats, are yet to wake up.

"There are a couple of home stays in Chikmagalur, but the real boom will be this year as many planters are looking at this alternative option seriously," Mr Shashi Kumar said.

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