ITAHARI: Not many years ago, Jephale was an unfamiliar name for travelers in eastern Tarai. But community homestay is now drawing significantly large number of tourists to this northern hilly location of Morang district.

Located at Kerabari Rural Municipality-2 of Morang district, Jephale community homestay was inaugurated on 4 Jestha 2074 BS after its formal registration at Tourism Office of Kakarbhitta, Jhapa. Informal beginning was made during 2069 BS at the initiation of then District Development Committee. Jephale now has eight government-certified homestays.

This can accommodate around 70 guests on a day. Interestingly, local teachers run most of these homestays. Six local teachers are among the eight local homestay operators. For example, Bhim Bahadur Thakuri, the teacher at the Panchayat Elementary School, is the homestay secretary and also a teacher.

His fellow teachers at the same school namely Umadevi Shahi and Sharmila Khadka are also in the homestay tourism. Likewise, Yadunidhi Adhikari of Jalkanya Elementary School and Asmita Kathayat and Raju Khadka of Phaiba Elementary School are also in the homestay business.

According to Bhim Thakuri, the teacher and the secretary to the Jephale Community Homestay Committee, teachers are the driving force of homestay tourism at Jephale. ”We have few dozen homes here and most of the people here were not much interested on homestay tourism and we created an environment ourselves”, said Thakuri, ”These days, more people are joining homestay business.”

According to Thakuri, two more homes are interested to be integrated in the community homestay whose ongoing membership stands at eight households. Situated at an altitude of around 1800 meter from the sea level, Jephale is a 24-kilometer-long drive from Kerabari, the rural municipality headquarters and 36-kilometers from Bhedetar, the popular hill station of Province 1.

According to local homestay operators and teashop-operators, on an average day, at least 100 travelers flock to this newfound hill station of Province 1. -RSS