Homestays are increasingly growing in popularity as tourists look for that personalised touch when they travel. In Goa the concept has caught on. AJIT JOHN spoke to operators and people who have used homestays to get an understanding of the dynamics of the market
When John Jacob decided to visit Goa on a whim, he did not call up the travel agency or his contact in the airline to get a good deal. He went online and checked the various home stays available on various platforms. In twenty minutes, he had a reasonably priced accommodation in the south which he said was very good. Clean premises with good food and attentive staff whenever they were needed made for a very enjoyable stay. Like him there are several thousand’s or more who are increasingly preferring to stay at home stays, thus changing the dynamics of the hospitality industry.
For the individual on holiday, this option has several inbuilt advantages. Each and every accommodation is distinctive. One does not have to live in sterile colourless hotels. Especially in a country like India with its diversity and charm a homestay is ideal. The options are almost endless and include plantation bungalows, historic havelis (mansions), forts, and remote rural cottages. That holds true for Goa too with its wonderful old Portuguese houses that date several decades.
Ashley Rebello a resident of Mumbai who visits Goa several times for business and pleasure stays at residences. He said “In a hotel it is very impersonal, in contrast a homestay usually only has a few rooms and the family who resides there runs it, and acts as host. This guarantees, I as a guest will receive personalised attention. I stay with the same family every time I visit Goa. They are aware of my food habits. When I come with my family my kids are exposed to Goan culture in all its shades.”
One of the largest players in the homestay business is Airbnb. People contacted by Herald said the country and specifically Goa was a very important market. Goa was considered a key rental market and the company had around 5000 listings in the State. This covered old houses to brand new flats. Properties were diverse from old Portuguese properties to villas to flats. There was huge interest in the country as well as in Goa. The company was in the midst of a 200% growth with large numbers of people from around the world coming in to visit the country. With regards Goa, there was considerable interest in countries like Russia, UK, Germany and France. Properties were available for $100 to $2000. As far as the domestic tourist was concerned, growth was steady but still very impressive. Rooms were available for anywhere between Rs 1500 to 3000. These houses for such rates were popular with backpackers. Families were prepared to pay rates anywhere between Rs 4000 to 50,000 depending on the experience they wished to enjoy.
The average stay is usually three to five days and it is year round. In a place like Goa, the concept of in and out season is long past. With regards to locations Arambol is popular with Russians while Baga and Britto’s is popular with domestic tourists.
To ensure that what is promised is delivered in terms of hospitality, Airbnb has a host review rating system. It is an open platform and absolutely anyone can use it. Like everything a review system that is accessible by everyone ensures that standards are maintained and false promises never made. A five star rating system ensures that people with no stars eventually fall out of favour. The platform earns money by ensuring that it takes three percent as a fee for every transaction conducted on its platform.
Another platform Native folks provides guests with an option to stay in villages around Goa. Their aim is to conserve nature and the ecosystem. Ashwini Krishna said “the company provides home stays in handpicked country side locations. Right now it is very popular with domestic tourists and the odd foreigner. The average cost is between Rs 1500 to Rs 3500 per day. The company has home stays all over the state in addition to also doing something similar in Orissa, Maharashtra and Kerala.”
When one lives in a home stay, the local knowledge of the host is invaluable. Such local knowledge is extremely helpful in getting the most out of one’s visit. Many hosts are delighted to show their guests around their local area, providing them with invaluable insights that simply aren't available from a guide book.
However in all this the state tourism board does not have information of the home stays operating. It does not have a system in place to evaluate these places. Home stays are the future as people look for a more genuine experience.