Since April, Triveni Srinivas and Nithin M, in their early thirties, have been working for a Hyderabad-based animation firm from a homestay in Chikmagalur, Karnataka.
“It is a little extravagant, but we are glad we took it. Sometimes bridging the gap between work and pleasure can help maintain sanity in such testing times,” Triveni said.
In exploring out-of-the-box workspaces, this couple is not alone. For a majority of office goers, 2020 brought a paradigm shift in priorities. Though WFH came with a much-needed reprieve from hectic commuting, many faced a fresh set of challenges like cramped houses, lack of social interaction and pressures of juggling household chores with work. A temporary move to an idyllic hill station, or a beach town, offered that breather from the stress of living — and working — under the shadow of a pandemic.
As Covid ravaged the hospitality sector, homestays came to the rescue. They were able to attract working couples, sometimes with children, who were looking for private, clean and hygienic accommodations, following Covid protocols. Many were able to afford extended stays due to competitive rates, enhancing this alternative arrangement’s popularity.
Airbnb’s general manager for India, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan, Amanpreet Singh Bajaj said a large number of Indians are looking at travel beyond holidays — to include remote work or other arrangements that blur the lines among living, working and travel.
“Led by a strong pent-up demand for travel, we are seeing signs of recovery in our domestic business. We have seen demand for nearby stays that are a drive away from metro cities, as well as changed consumer preferences to embrace longer stays to live and work in a new destination,” he added.
Another leading online travel platform, MakeMyTrip’s COO Vipul Prakash said Indian travellers have been gradually building up an appetite for alternative accommodations like villas and homestays over the last few years, but post pandemic the interest has shot up significantly.
Travellers are looking for convenience of a hotel coupled with their home-like privacy. Some look for basic amenities like kitchenettes, kids area, internet and laundry, while others could look for a 24×7 chef, pool, gym, etc. Also, as consciousness towards sustainable travel grows, there is an increase in the number of searches for sustainable or eco-friendly villas or homestays, he added.
“According to YouGov, 66% of Indians consider trips that are within driving distances from key metros. This is backed by the resurgence of demand we see for destinations like Lonavala, Shimla, Pune, Kasauli, Nainital and Dharamshala. Our search trends show that travellers are looking for secluded accommodation options in destinations that are closer to nature,” Bajaj explained.
Nitin George, a partner at Rainforest & Talisman Property Management, that offers vacation rental units from 1-BHK to villas in Goa, said homestays will do well in the next six-eight months. As people are increasingly exploring alternative accommodations, this segment is growing in size, which in turn will lead to rationalisation of prices, thereby making them more attractive.
Demand is rising, said Rohan Mayor from Exquis Homes Goa. “Villa rentals in Goa are touching the sky, with almost our entire inventory of holiday homes being booked up to three weeks in advance,” he added.
North and West India are particularly strong markets for villas with destinations like Goa, Lonavala, Alibaug and Mahabaleshwar in West, and Nainital, Mussoorie, Shimla and Manali in North. Southern tourist destinations such as Coorg, Munnar, Chikmagalur and Ooty are popular for plantation stays and eco-friendly cottages, Prakash said.
Airbnb’s latest survey with YouGov on travel trends for 2021 also showed that seven in 10 (69%) travellers indicate that they will look for unique accommodations such as villas, farmstays, cottages, treehouses, nature lodges and huts when traveling, Bajaj said.
State governments are also trying to cash in on the surge. For instance, Uttarakhand, which has around 4,000 registered homestays, is promoting the concept with schemes like Veer Chandra Singh Garhwali Yojana and Deendayal Upadhyaya Homestay scheme for enhancing employment opportunities.