08 Sep 2016 12:58 IST

Homestay, the new battleground for travel players

From start-ups to travel aggregators and global hospitality firms, all are in the fray

Thanks to mushrooming start-ups and the presence of global hospitality companies, the travel sector in India has already become competitive. Now a new battleground has emerged, the homestay segment, with Airbnb strengthening its foothold and online travel players increasing focus on this space.

The unorganised and fragmented homestay segment has attracted online travel aggregators such as MakeMyTrip and Yatra, apart from start-ups such as Stayzilla and Wudstay.

Unique experiences

Amanpreet Bajaj, Country Manager - India, Airbnb, said: “Homestays are fast emerging as the trendiest thing for travellers, nowadays. More and more people now want to move away from the templatised ways of travel and standardised hospitality services to have unique experiences.”

India is a key strategic market for Airbnb’s overall growth, he said. The company, which currently has over 18,000 listings, has seen 115-per cent growth in listings since last year.

Yatra, which launched TG Stays in October last year to focus on the homestay market, is optimistic about the sector as a line of business.

“Till recently, there were only a few clusters in places such as Puducherry and Coorg; but we are now seeing an expansion of the concept across the country,” said Sharat Dhall, president, Yatra.com.

From 1,000 properties in October, Yatra currently has 3,000 properties live on the platform.

Even MakeMyTrip, which is banking on the holiday packages and the hotels business to drive growth, has stepped up its game for the homestay segment. It is looking at the alternative accommodation space through RightStay, for which it has built an in-house team.

“This (RightStay) is for alternative accommodation, starting with service apartments, guest houses, eventually going to homestays. We have designed an app and already done a soft launch,” Rajesh Magow, co-founder and CEO-India, MakeMyTrip, had recently told BusinessLine . RightStay has over 5,000 listed properties.

Alternative stay platform Stayzilla has gone a step ahead and inked tie-ups with the State governments of Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand, and more such partnerships are on the cards to boost the homestay space.

Ankit Rastogi, Vice-President - Marketplace, Stayzilla, said: “The early signs from this space are positive. Today, 40 per cent of our revenue comes from homestays.” The platform has 30,000 rooms in 8,000 homestays across 1,000 destinations. “We are targeting 5 lakh rooms on our platform in 3-4 years.”

Players are also stepping up their marketing activities to drive customers to this category.

While Airbnb recently launched a 360-degree marketing campaign, Live There, across TV, print, social media and digital platforms, Yatra said it will do targeted marketing using online and social-media channels.

Challenges

The homestay segment, however, has its own challenges. Efforts need to be made to address reluctance among hosts and instil confidence in the traveller, players said.

According to news reports, the Centre is looking at developing a database of certified guest houses, homestays and bed-and-breakfast accommodation across the country to bring out a rating system verifying the quality of accommodation.

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