An already popular concept across many countries, in India, travel players are gradually getting acquainted to the new turf of homestays as a fresh demand gains ground.
The rise of new hotels and other similar innovative and affordable stay options, such as budget hotels or standardized hotel rooms managed by hotel aggregators, are shaping the landscape of the hospitality and tourism sector in India. One such evolving category which is gaining foothold in the Indian market while still in its nascent stage, is that of Homestays.
While adding some authentic local and cultural flavour to the tourists’ experience, especially in terms of cuisine and local traditions, the unorganised homestay segment is gaining more popularity for the warmth associated to the personal hospitality extended by the home owners, generally families, and also for the unique experiences which come along while being a part of such stays unlike standardised hotel stays or mechanical services. A broader and more comprehensive look provides a fair understanding of the economic viability associated to homestays from both, the homestay owner’s and the traveller’s point of view.
Building a hotel involves high capex and opex along with frequent investments which may be required on ad hoc basis. Even then, the average occupancy rates are not met or assured, thereby questioning further investments in hotel rooms. Homestays, on the other hand, are created out of rooms which already exist within a property or an entire property in itself, hence involving nominal or no expenditure. Also, the objectives of a hotel owner for setting up a property are extremely different from that of a homestay owner. While hotel owners have their eyes set on the revenue generated, the case is not the same for homestay owners as it is not their primary source of livelihood.
Travellers nowadays on the other hand, are always on the lookout for an unorthodox and offbeat approach to learn more about a place or destination. This makes the concept of a homestay seem both, lucrative and appealing at the same time. The entire idea of staying with a local family and learning about a place and culture from the people who are already a part of it along with the homely warmth offered, all this at a much lower tariff which hotels have to offer, appears as a major attraction to travellers and guests alike. Homestays are largely in demand by families or solo leisure travellers, as they want to make the best use of the flexibility involved along with a personalised experience. Hotels on the other end are driving more demand from business travellers, owing to their MICE requirements.
Homestays might be emerging as competition to hotels from a business point of view, however, it still cannot be considered as a potential threat to them as it is not here to intimidate their existence. Both are creating and setting up their own markets based on their core offerings. Homestays are experiencing greater growth in less accessible and lesser known regions where the commercial branches of hotels are unable to reach. Same is the case during the peak seasons for hotels. While all hotel rooms are booked based on the uncontrolled influx of travellers, homestays come to their rescue, providing accommodation at reasonable rates.
Despite a promising future in the Indian hospitality landscape, more efforts need to be made in order to spread awareness and create greater demand in the tourism market. Currently, it is only through word of mouth or minimal online presence that homestays are able to mark their presence. Still in its nascent stage in India, homestays are gradually increasing their presence to meet the existing demand. There is also the need for more support from the government in terms of detailed government policies. The Indian government alongside its State governments need to realise the importance being allocated to experiential tourism by budding unconventional travellers and the benefits which homestays can provide to the growth of the rural tourism segment in the state and in India as a whole.