The Philippines has a growing reputation for its hospitable and accommodating people. Forbes magazine called the country the friendliest in Asia – “The ever-present smile and constant happiness of the Filipino people, even in the face of adversity, is contagious.”
A new and fast growing homestay network, run by Flip Flop Tours Inc., provides adventurous travellers with a front row seat into this unique and welcoming culture. For only 600PHP (15USD) per night, travellers get to live like a local, staying with a Filipino family, experiencing their way of life. Homestays can be booked online and are located in the islands of Malapascua, Bantayan, Palawan and Bohol around the Philippines.
The Filipino-New Zealand team who operate Flip Flop Inc. is lead by New Zealand born Anna Cleal, who first travelled to the Philippines for civil engineering work in 2008, and was amazed that so little was known about this tropical paradise. She has made it her mission to encourage more travellers to hit the Philippines shores in ways that benefit local communities.
“Often beach resorts have serious environmental impacts and pop up in areas where the average income is $1 per day,” said Cleal. “The homestay program aims to direct money into the heart of some of these communities, as well as hoping to provide travellers with more of an experience,” she added.
Comments and feedback from international tourists is highly positive. Typical comments include :
“I’ve travelled all around the world but staying with this wonderful family was by far one of the best experiences of my adventures.”
“They were excellent hosts and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.”
Filipino homes that are eligible for the FlipFlop homestay program do not usually have access to the internet so the company often has to travel to remote areas to find suitable homestays. FlipFlop’s aim is to give travellers an experience very different to what they might find in their own country. “The families who we support live very simple lives, they are in touch with the land and the community of people living nearby,” says Gaudioso Calibugan, a Filipino on the Flip Flop Tours Board of Directors.
Gaudioso Calibugan believes that travel is having a positive impact on how we see the world, how we accept people of different backgrounds and how we appreciate the diversity of life.
“The key thing I noticed when I first arrived in the Philippines is their sense of community and fun-loving nature. I really want more travellers to experience this, and to take it back home with them. Obviously The Philippines is well-known for its beaches and diving but there is so much more to discover – there is a heartbeat about The Philippines that you really have to witness to believe. Homestays are a way to be a part of this heartbeat,” commented Anna Cleal.
FlipFlop Inc’s message to independent travellers around the world is: Come to The Philippines, To be a bit adventurous, get out of your comfort zone and make the most of your visit by including a homestay in your plans. You will not regret it.
About Flip Flop Tours Inc.
Flip Flop Tours was incorporated in June 2011 and started off selling packaged tours in the Visayan region of the Philippines. The company is 40% foreign owned and 60% Filipino owned (this is a legal requirement in the Philippines) which is respected. The structure of the company ensures that a Filipino flavor is maintained at all times. The homestay register originated in Bohol, but is currently spreading throughout the Philippines.
About Homestay Tourism
Wikipedia cites “Homestay is a form of tourism and/or study abroad program that allows the visitor to rent a room from a local family to better learn the local lifestyle as well as improve their language ability.” The concept of international homestays is not a new invention. According to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) 2012 saw a record of 1.035 billion international tourist arrivals. Providing the infrastructure to accommodate these tourists is obviously an enormous undertaking. Homestay programs work within existing infrastructure and are a sustainable option for tourists.