In today's digital world, reservations must be just a click away. We have therefore hired a company to provide this service so that our availability shows up on Trip Advisor and visitors can use their Instant Booking service. We have had to raise our rates from November 2016 to include the commission we pay for this. Our web-site is now mobile compatible and we hope we will now be able to reach many more persons interested in experiencing life in a local family.
Romi Samele joined us as the new manager of the home-stay from August 1. In the past, we often used his office behind the Ram Raja temple - OTS (Orchha Tourist Services) to access internet and saw how helpful he was to the tourists in planning their travel. He has grown up in Orchha and has a good network in the town. He communicates well in English and Hindi and is computer savvy. He is responsible for receiving guests, being their liaison with the host families, supervising the maintenance of the rooms and sanitary blocks, making bills for the guests and paying the families for their stay. We hope he will be with us for many years to come.
Asha continues to work as a volunteer from Almora and visits Orchha each quarter. The other two employees are Jumna Prajapati, a resident of Ganj, and Ramsevak Valmiki, who is also employed as a cleaner by the municipality. Both of them are responsible for cleaning the rooms and sanitary blocks daily.
For many of our guests, their stay in Orchha has been the highlight of their trip. We now have 153 reviews on Trip Advisor of which 112 rate us as "Excellent". See Trip Advisor Reviews For the third consecutive year, the Orchha home-stay has been awarded the Certificate of Excellence by Trip Advisor and we are consistently ranked first among all the hotels and guest houses of Orchha.
Last year, we had 870 visitors from about 30 different countries. We now have eight rooms in six host families with a total capacity of 19 persons. As a livelihoods programme, the home-stay has proved successful as all the host families earn about three times more now than they did previously. Five of the six families have now reimbursed the amount invested in their homes by Friends of Orchha. At a meeting of the host families, it was decided that the families will continue to receive all the money paid by guests for meals. Those that have reimbursed now get 25% of the room rent in cash. The rest goes to cover expenses. At the end of the financial year, the host families receive a statement of income and expenditure and any profit is redistributed to the families.
Last April, four young ones moved to the Orchha Public School where the teaching is in English. They have made much progress since. The three older girls continue their studies at Gyansthali in Jhansi and J. K.Convent in Orchha. We are very grateful to the guests who have contributed to their school fees.