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Understanding ‘Amar Alohi’, an Assam initiative to energize rural economies

Kajol Singha , July 1, 2024
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Guwahati: ‘Amar Alohi’, an initiative of the Assam government to energize rural economies by helping set up homestays for tourists, received a major shot in the arm this year with new guidelines that promise greater dividends for beneficiaries.

“Amar Alohi, originally launched in 2017, is now being streamlined, as we are identifying beneficiaries on a cluster basis to be able to help them with more ease,” a Tourism department official, who is involved with the project, told Business North East.

Earlier, beneficiaries were identified individually and were scattered all across the state. The new policy, introduced by the Assam Tourism Development Corporation (ATDC), has encouraged villagers to form groups and apply for it. “As many as 10 beneficiaries can apply from the same village, with each family eligible to rent out 2 rooms,” the official said. 

“Tourists visiting a village with an Amar Alohi cluster now have access to 20 rooms; in comparison, even hotels in rural Assam only have 10-15 rooms,” added the official.

The new Amar Alohi clusters are located in Umsoi village in Karbi Anglong district, Dima Hasao, Chairaideo, Dihing Patkai, and Majuli regions of the state.

Since each village will have 20 rooms under the scheme, promoting them is easier, the official noted, as the government can help link them up with tour operators. “It allows us to help them better through coordination, monitoring, marketing, and promotion,” he said, adding that it would also create “self-employment opportunities” for locals and provide “authentic hospitality experiences” to travelers.

Moreover, the subsidy for the Amar Alohi projects has been increased to 90% from the previous 80%. According to the official, each of these clusters gets Rs one crore, or 90% of the project cost.

Under the previous scheme, Amar Alohi beneficiaries were asked to choose between two designs for their homestay – a stilt house, or an Assam-type house. “This time, they have not been given designs but specifications only and will be able to build their homestays as per their ethnicity for more authentic experiences,” the official explained.

The government has also introduced a productivity-linked incentive to ensure the homestays are not converted into personal homes later on. “As encouragement to continue operating their homestays, the owners are receiving productivity linked incentives, with an upper ceiling of Rs 2.5 lakh which, we believe, will keep them going,” informed the official.

Moreover, the beneficiaries will also get marketing benefits, of upto Rs 2.5 lakh. They have been encouraged to promote themselves on social media and through brochures, websites, and participation in travel media events. Eventually, they will get 50% of the spent amount back “to encourage them to go and explore and spend.” 

So why does one put up at an Amar Alohi homestay instead of a private one?

“Amar Alohi is defined by the group dynamic and community camaraderie,” the official explained. “Moreover, it helps the whole village community: if we have 10 families involved, a ripple effect will be felt in the entire village. People will not only stay in the tent houses, they will be moving around – buying goods from village stores. Hence, the entire village ecosystem gets covered.”

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