A network of rural B&Bs is being planned for central America – more countries should follow their example
Chatting to the folks at the Mexican Tourist Board last night, we discussed plans for a network of 'Green Stays' in the country.
The Mexicans have apparently watched the boom in homestays in India (especially Kerala) with interest, and now want to set up their own scheme for rural B&Bs.
And you can see why. No need for infrastructure development (the homes are already there, and anyone who's visited the Riviera Maya recently knows Mexico isn't exactly short on big, resource-heavy hotels already). There are obvious economic benefits for local communities (homeowners, often in off-the-beaten track locations, get a viable income). And it's great for travellers - low cost, centrally booked, quality controlled.
The best model for this style of local accommodation I've seen is Mahindra Homestays in India - an offshoot of a big Indian conglomerate that has gone into eco-tourism with a surprisingly deft touch.
The trick is a user-friendly website (Mahindra's was designed and built for the UK market - and it shows), and a soft-touch mentoring system which helps homeowners open up their houses to visitors in a natural but professional way. It works for all parties – as I discovered when I visited Rajasthan last year and stayed in several lovely Mahindra homes.
Mexico's plans are still a way off but I wish them - and anyone else looking to emulate the Mahindra model – good luck. The world would be a better place with a few less ego-pampering Burj Al-Arab mega-hotels, and a few thousand more low-key 'green stays'.