Homestay in a serviced apartment offers privacy, luxury and the freedom from hotel rules of behaviour (Stock photo)

Homestays or hotels- What is your choice?

People are tired of trashing just one person’s room or huddling in the lobby. Serviced apartments or homestays allow everyone to bond and relax in living rooms, gazebos, private lawns

Namrata Kohli | New Delhi

New Delhi based chemical engineer Subhash Tandon recently stayed with his extended family in Ganga Vatika apartments on the banks of river Ganga in Rishikesh for five days. He says, “For short duration like 2 nights, I would certainly prefer a hotel stay. But for a longer stay, I usually opt for a premium serviced apartment with a kitchen.” He is no stranger to the concept of serviced apartments and has stayed globally, in Milan and Yokohama and Taiwan and Sharjah as a global risk analysis consultant in petrochemicals for his assignments. He says these residence hotels are well equipped with a kitchen, washing machine/ dryer and other gadgets like microwave oven, mixture grinder, toaster etc. But sometimes, he says one is left struggling with certain amenities. So, he recommends serviced apartments to leave crisp instructions on use of gadgets, switches and other things on a standard leaflet which can be used as a ready reckoner by guests.

Welcome to the post pandemic stay style of homestays over hotels. Data on MakeMyTrip indicates that bookings for homestays have multiplied 2.5X times since pre-pandemic days. The platform has a vast collection of serviced apartments from vineyards, coffee plantations, private Island access to infinity pools to 2000+ pet-friendly homestays across the country plus homestays in not-so-popular destinations, such as Coonoor, Idukki, Karjat, Pelling, and Namchi. According to Vipul Prakash, COO, MakeMyTrip, “Homestays, today, are considered and searched by every three in four Indian travellers. In accordance with the growth in demand for homestays, we have also noticed a 100% growth in homestays listing on the platform too.”

In the current scenario, families prefer serviced apartments over cramped, 250-square-foot 5-star hotel rooms because they can live comfortably in a 750-square-foot apartment for a fraction of the price. Says Maj Dr. Gulshan Sharma, Director General-International Chamber for Service Industry and Author of book “Rethinking Tourism – Post Pandemic” – “The idea behind serviced apartments, which started in the US in the 1950s, was to provide an executive with a nice living space away from home, not just a hotel room. The majority of foreign executives had to stay in 5-star hotels when they first started flying into India during the first wave of liberalisation in the 1990s to promote joint ventures, establish their operations, or buy stock in Indian companies because the idea of serviced apartments had not yet caught on in the nation. The popularity of serviced apartments is currently growing quickly throughout India as both domestic and foreign hospitality giants invest significant sums in promoting new ventures.”

Some of the popular names known for/preferred for homestays are Airbnb, Saffron Stays, Ama Trails & Stays, Villas offered by Saffron Stays, Stay Vista and individual homestays. Says Daniel D’Souza, President & Country Head – Holidays, SOTC Travel, “Homestays are gaining momentum and our data indicates strong interest especially from the family and millennial/young professional segment as they offer a flavour of the local community and culture. From exploring new traditions and rules, home-cooked meals, cultural celebrations and overcoming language barriers – living in a homestay broadens a traveller’s perspective of life beyond the limits of the city. Domestic destinations where customers prefer homestays over hotels are Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Kerala, Rajasthan, Sikkim. In addition to homestays, eclectic stays and unique accommodations like heritage bungalows, havelis/ palaces, forts, in the heart of a desert or bamboo grove, tree houses or tea estates / coffee plantations are also witnessing a surge of 10-15% v/s 2019.”

Why Homestays

Any group that thinks ‘together’ will opt for a private villa or a serviced apartment/homestay. Deven Parulekar, Founder, SaffronStays, a company which runs a network of 275+ private vacations gives reasons why homestay as an industry is going to dominate in India. Says Parulekar, “People are tired of trashing just one person’s room or huddling in the lobby. Villas allow everyone – couples, friends, families, and corporates – to bond and relax in living rooms, gazebos, private lawns, outdoor central spaces of gravity and private pools. The luxury of space is here to stay. Second, anyone with disposable income will agree that they do not want to share their spaces. For some, having the luxury of privacy, not sharing spaces with anyone, is a true definition of success and having ‘arrived’. Our Signature estates cater to those friends, families and CXOs who want to feel like a million bucks when they live on 70-acre private estates. Villas are for freedom and flexibility.”

Moreover, hotels have strict rules – from breakfast timings, to dress codes, to behaviour – you’re ‘expected’ to behave in a certain way because you are amidst other guests. When a couple/group books a homestay, they are free to be themselves, without pretence, without show, without dress codes. Come eat breakfast in your pajamas or dinner in your swimming trunks; the place is all yours! Hotels offer rooms with better views at steep prices, have cookie-cutter builds and offer standard interiors across all spaces. Most villas and estates across the country are built around a story, breathe life and often reflect the personas that put them together. From Greek-themed homes to hobbit homes and homes that have heritage artefacts, every home will always tell its own unique story.

A homestay segment abounds with options of properties with character of their own. Take the case of Airbnb which offers one-of-a-kind stays, from treehouses and houseboats to farm stays and cabins. In India, in the past two years alone, from 2019 to 2021, nights booked at unique properties have increased by over 30 percent at Airbnb.

Imagine living on a private vineyard that supplies grapes to some of the biggest wine manufacturers in India, virtually owning 360° views of the Himalayas right from the terrace of your private villa or sipping champagne in an infinity pool that overlooks the entire Goa coastline… There are some experiences that no hotel can provide. Says SaffronStays’ Deven Parulekar, “The whole trifecta of a private villa: Great views (ideally with a waterbody – lake, river, waterfall, dam), a private pool/lawn and spacious common areas, and wholesome meals. Amenities like gyms, spas, ATV rides, and cycles are additional amenities that definitely added benefits that convince guests to book our villas, but the true ask is for experiences that money cannot buy, and that is where SaffronStays comes in – by unlocking the finest homes across the country for the discerning traveller.”

Hotels offer the basic red-yellow-green, Chinese, Continental menus in cold buffets. Homestays, on the other hand, employ local families to dish out the best local delicacies of the area. Picture digging into a fresh siddu, dunked in homemade ghee while sitting on your private apple orchard in Himachal Pradesh, or a fish fry with 270° views of the Arabian Sea in front of you? Of course, you will get gourmet meals at these homestays, but you will also be able to experience farm-to-fork under the same roof.

Also, a hotel has no dedicated staff except for only top-level suites, you have to be content with room service and shared housekeeping. When you book a private villa or a serviced apartment, you have a small army of hotel-standard staff that are dedicated to ensuring that only you have a great experience. You don’t have to wait to call on someone for any needs.

The Live Anywhere Trend

Today the “Live and Work Anywhere” phenomenon has taken off among people who are able to work remotely. Says Amanpreet Bajaj, Airbnb’s General Manager – India, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong & Taiwan, “This Live Anywhere trend has decentralised the way we live and altered the way we travel. People will continue to spread out to thousands of towns and cities, and they will stay for weeks, months, or even longer.” Some of their most wishlisted unique homes in India include Whispering Pines Cottages|Treehouse|Tandi (Jibhi, Himachal Pradesh), The Countryside Farm (Kamshet, Maharashtra), The barn – A Farm Cottage (New Delhi, Delhi), Tranquil Dreamy Dome w/ Plunge Pool (Kamshet, Maharashtra), Tree house | Duplex | Balcony With Himalayan View (Fagu, Himachal Pradesh). Travelers are also exploring popular beach destinations of Goa, Kerala and Pondicherry as well as the hill stations of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

The majority of Indian travelers (37 percent) want more flexibility when it comes to when, how, and where they travel. This trend is significant across generations and more evident in Baby Boomers at 57 percent followed by Gen X and Millennials at 48 percent and 41 percent respectively.

Pay The Price

Every homestay is different and is uniquely priced. Also, the costing may vary depending on season and number of people. The per room per night tariff can range from Rs 2,000 – 20,000. Homestay brands offer everything from private cottages and 1-bedroom apartments to 8-bedroom villas. In some sectors, they even offer a clubbed inventory – 3-5 villas with 3-5 bedrooms each, that are perfect for big celebrations, offsites, family get-together.

Says Rajeev Kale – President & Country Head, Holidays, MICE, Visa – Thomas Cook (India) Limited, “The average duration for homestays is between 8 to 10 days and price of a value homestay ranges from INR 1,000.00 to INR 5,000.00 per night. Luxury villas for homestays provide privacy along with professional hospitality, concierge services and a private chef and range between INR 25000.00 to INR 40000.00 per night for upto 8 pax. Additionally, pool villas have witnessed high demand from our customers for long/extended weekends and weekend getaways.”

Price Chart

Every unit is different in a serviced apartment and is uniquely priced and costing may vary depending on season and number of people. The tariff is per room.

Unit Price (in Rs)
Ultra-Luxe Estates 7,499 – 12,999 per room per night
Luxury Villas 4,000 – 7,499 per room per night
Lite, Pocket-Friendly Villas 2,000-4,000 per room per night
Full villa -2-bedroom Luxury villas with professional hospitality, concierge services, private chef 25,000- 40,000 per night for upto 8 pax
two balconies and a kitchen 26,000- 45,000 per night
5 BHK Farm house… price varies with location, amenities such as pool, private garden etc  75,000- 2.5 lakh per night

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