The Asosiasi Usaha Homestay Lokal Kabupaten Raja Ampat translates as “Raja Ampat Local Homestay Business Enterprise Association” but is more commonly known as The Raja Ampat Homestay Association (HSA). The Association was formed by the owners of Papuan homestay businesses and has a threefold aim:
- To foster the establishment of a strong, locally-owned ecotourism economy which will empower island communities with the political influence necessary to realise their desire for environmental and cultural preservation.
- To assist each other in the development of the skills required to successfully operate sustainable ecotourism ventures.
- To assist travellers to Raja Ampat by setting minimum standards for homestay facilities, ensuring member compliance with those standards and providing a channel for guest feedback and complaint resolution.
Sustainable ecotourism in Raja Ampat
Local communities wholeheartedly embrace conservation of both their environment and traditional way of life and locally owned ecotourism ventures are the foundation upon which international conservation efforts in Raja Ampat are based. You can read more about conservation efforts and how conservation is enshrined in local customary law on our Raja Ampat conservation programs page.
The Raja Ampat Homestay Association is a true community based organisation and is keenly aware of the flow on effects of the success (or otherwise) of its members’ business ventures. Homestays are the focus of economic activity that supports a wide range of community members. In addition to the community members directly employed by the homestays, a wide network of local guides, suppliers, transport operators and service providers is dependent on the success of Raja Ampat’s homestay accommodation sector. Recognition of this is evident in the Association motto: “Building the economy of the village.”
The HSA and local ecotourism operators want to hear your reviews, recommendations and criticisms. Your feedback will enable them to improve their businesses and better meet guest expectations. If you have been a guest at a homestay – or at a resort or on a liveaboard – please consider responding to this survey. Or just leave your comments on the relevant website page.
Your input is valued and will contribute to the conservation of the Raja Ampat Marine Protected Area, the island environment and the way of life of local people.
Homestays which are members of the Association are guaranteed to meet Association standards and are indicated on our accommodation page by this symbol:
Supporting homestays which are members of the Association means you’ll have no surprises regarding available facilities and services and that you’ll have the Association’s support in the unlikely event of a problem that you can’t otherwise resolve.
What are the Raja Ampat Homestay Association standards?
The HSA Standards assessment examines five separate categories of homestay operations.
Assessment includes such things as social impact and obligations, gender equality, environmental impact and environmental sustainability. The five categories are assessed via 29 criteria having a total of 75 specific indicators.
Some indicators of most direct concern to guests include:
- Specific minimum standards for accommodation facilities
- Specific minimum standards for bathroom/toilet facilities
- Environmental impact
- Homestay cleanliness and waste management
- Homestay food and food preparation hygiene
- Minimum certified training of guides for hometays with diving operations
- Adherence to the Raja Ampat Diving Code of Practice
So does Stay Raja Ampat only list Association member homestays?
Yes – for areas where the HSA is currently providing support and member services.
As of June 2016 that area extends from Batanta in the south to the north coast of Waigeo and westward to include Gam, Mansuar, The Pam (Fam) Islands, Piaynemo (Penemu), Manyaifun, Kawe and all the locations between those islands.
We will continue to list as many homestays that lie outside the HSA area of operation as we can collect (or are provided) sufficient information for.
The Raja Ampat Homestay Association performs an essential role in creating the economic and social conditions necessary for local communities to retain ownership of their traditional lands and culture in the face of ever increasing development pressure: We want to support them in that endeavour.
HSA membership is open to all locally owned homestays and a unified community approach and an agreed set of standards for all will best ensure the success of the conservation effort in Raja Ampat.
And finally, as described on our About Us page, the costs involved in developing and maintaining the Stay Raja Ampat website service are currently being borne by international donors to the Bird’s Head Seascape Initiative conservation project.
When that funding expires in 2017 the HSA plans to cover those costs to ensure the ongoing maintenance of a comprehensive and reliable service. It’s only fair that businesses benefiting from that service are members of the organisation providing it.
But I’ve heard that the HSA is some kind of exclusive club or price fixing cartel?
Sigh… It most certainly is not!
Homestay owners recognise that there needs to be room for innovation, in order to ensure that services are designed around the needs of guests rather than those of the proprietors. Therefore the Association does not set or recommend prices for homestays or any other ecotourism operators. Please read this Raja Ampat Accommodation Prices article for an in-depth look at the factors affecting costs and fuel supplies in Raja Ampat.
Here’s an extract from a comprehensive report about the HSA that we’ll be publishing soon. We hope it will put such notions to rest!
The Raja Ampat Local Homestay Association currently represents just over sixty family-owned businesses. These are not private individual businesses, but family entities, similar to a traditional joint stock company, that support and employ an extended network of relations.
The Association is now the largest community-owned business grouping in the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua. First concentrated around the islands of Mansuar and Gam in the Dampier Strait, the Association’s membership is spreading to include communities from other parts of Raja Ampat such as the Fam islands, western Waigeo and the island of Batanta.
The Association’s members understand that their businesses depend on the integrity of their environment. They believe that they and others in their communities are best positioned to protect that environment, and that their businesses give them the means to do so:
“It’s obvious isn’t it? As more homestays start up in places under greatest threat from bomb fishing – such as Batanta and western Waigeo – less of it will happen. There will be more of us around to keep watch as we go about our business, and we will not need to be paid to patrol. Who would dare bomb the reef around Mansuar now?”
The Association mobilises technical assistance and funding for business skills training and mentoring for its members. The Association also provides certain business services to its members such as online promotion and bookings, and it manages government relations on issues such as the management of MPA entrance fees.
The Association is setting standards on diving, transport and hospitality to govern the conduct of its members’ businesses. It is currently working to adapt and apply the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC) to the homestay sector.
The Association is also a social movement motivated by the desire to prevent family land being sold to resorts and to stand on their own feet as economic actors. “Homestays are our way to defend our land… we do not want to be bystanders or someone else’s workers”. The pain that people feel when they have lost land remains the single most important factor in motivating people to set up the Homestay Association.
The Association is a community organization that, for the first time, gives people from multiple communities their own, shared space to discuss their lives and businesses; and also to find solutions to the problems that most concern them, such as waste management, illegal fishing, illegal logging, and the loss of culture and identity.
As such, the Association fills an institutional vacuum. With the possible exception of the church there is, at present, no other structure at community level that regularly convenes people from different villages in order to talk about matters that are too big for each village to address on its own.
The Association is inspiring youth. Over half its management team are in their twenties and thirties and represent a new generation of community leaders that could serve Raja Ampat for the next forty years. The opportunity to work for the family business means that youth now want to come home after completing their studies. Much of the money that their families’ homestays generate now pays for their younger sisters and brothers to also go to college.
The words of one young homestay owner reflects how others of his generation now think: “I hope other people in the community can build a business like this one. I hope that outsiders do not take over this small place. The future I wish for is that my community will always stay here and make its living from this place.”
The Association is empowering women. The Association understands that it will fail if men and women cannot work together. The Association’s most energetic managers are now women. They are the glue that binds the Association’s membership, and are organising other women in their villages to set up kiosks and a market for local organic produce to keep homestays supplied. Their example has transformed the outlook of women in the community. One said, “All my life I have looked at this kitchen, I never knew life could be more than this”.
The homestay sector is therefore serving, not only to protect the marine environment, but also to regenerate community. Where this serves to build a supporting system of extended family and other social relations then it reinforces the likelihood that conservation will succeed.
“Redefining conservation: how communities in Raja Ampat are shaping their world, and what their experience teaches us about empowerment.”
Dominic Elson, Maria Latumahina & Adrian Wells
A vision for life in Raja Ampat
The Asosiasi Usaha Homestay Lokal Kabupaten Raja Ampat has articulated the hopes and aims of local communities in their Vision Statement. You can read it here.
Raja Ampat Homestays: Support local communities – support the reef.