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Home in on homestays

Bed-and-breakfast options offer relatively cheap and comfortable accommodation. You benefit, whether you’re the guest or the host.

Sushmita Choudhury with Rakesh Rai | Print Edition: Nov 29, 2007

Vikram and Bhawna Atwal
Tej’s Abode, GK II, Delhi

We thought it made sense to go the B&B way. We live in a huge old house, so the fittings had to be changed, wiring redone, the bathrooms rebuilt, supplies bought...The total investment was around Rs 8-9 lakh. Occupancy has been 50-55% but we are seeing the inflow grow by 10% every month.

There are hotels and there are hotels, but there’s really no place like home, is there? Especially if you are the kind that travels frequently or if you want the comfort of home wherever you holiday. The concept of homestays has caught on, not just in places of tourist interest but also in big cities where there’s a high floating population of regular business travellers.The difference between a bed-and-breakfast (B&B) and a homestay is very, very thin. In India it is used interchangeably.

Theoretically, a B&B offers just that—a bed for the night and breakfast the next morning. No frills, no perks, no fancy prices. In other countries, B&Bs are favoured by back-packers, trekkers, students and other holiday-makers on a shoestring budget.

In India, however, B&Bs have gone upmarket. In a typical B&B in Delhi, for instance, you get an air-conditioned room with attached bathroom, cable TV, breakfast, Internet access, free local phone calls and much more. For all this, you pay almost what you’d pay a three-star hotel or less.

The difference is that you are probably getting five-star facilities. Homestay options in tourist destinations are even more luxurious, and offer sightseeing facilities and transport options, as well as all meals and snacks thrown in.Homestays also have a cost advantage, albeit a small one, over hotels. For instance, if you were in Delhi’s Greater Kailash neighbourhood, you would pay about Rs 3,400 for a double room at the Solo Victoria, a business hotel.

For around the same price, you can get a room at Tej’s Abode, a View Your Lodging B&B, where you get near five-star comforts. Says Vikram Atwal, owner of this Ministry of Tourism approved B&B: “We are above the three-star bracket but our rates are much cheaper.”

 The earnings

Average earning from letting out a room is Rs 2,500 a day, assuming realisation post-maintenance and other over-heads is Rs 2,000 a day from this room.

If you spend Rs 1 lakh on doing up a room, you need 50 nights of occupancy to recover the initial cost. If you do up two rooms at Rs 1.5 lakh, you need 75 nights of occupancy to recover costs

Anything over this is profit

The other advantage is less tangible. There’s the comfort of staying at home as opposed to an impersonal hotel. Plus, you get home-cooked food, and don’t have to worry about security of your self or belongings. Tej’s Abode has an enviable guest list, including Ulric Haynes, former US Ambassador to Algeria.

“Usually when I visit India, I always stay at five-star hotels such as the Taj or the Imperial as I enjoy the services.

However, on my recent visit, I have stumbled upon a hidden treasure—a new boutique bed-andbreakfast option. Located in a posh residential neighbourhood, it provides almost the same services as a five-star hotel, yet in a home environment,” he wrote at the B&B’s guestbook earlier this year.

Mohinder Kaur & Didar Singh Chaudhri
Defence Colony, Delhi

We spent about Rs 1 lakh to remodel our house to suit the B&B requirement and registered under the Silver category in late 2006. In the past 10 months we have had a mixed outcome; but something that we both are enjoying. The B&B helps us manage the monthly maintenance costs that we incur on our house.

Easy money.
It’s not just good news for travellers. Home owners are delighted to be able to make some money from unused space.

After all, can you think of a better deal than a job that isn’t nine-to-five, where you are the boss and you don’t even have to step out of your home?   Given the demand for room in large cities, state governments are promoting the B&B concept.

The Delhi government has passed an ordinance exempting B&B establishments in the entire National Capital Region from luxury tax and valueadded tax. Although few other states have followed suit, B&B owners are not really complaining.

Sensing the potential of this concept, the Directorate General, Resettlement, Ministry of Defence, started the Kerala Veterans Homestays chain last year. Says Major-General Harwant Krishnan, the former head of DGR, who launched the chain: “We did not have to try hard to find takers.

All we said was ‘you’ve retired, and your nest is empty. Instead of going out to look for a second career, why not opt for a home-based occupation? Or your wife or daughter could do with some extra cash’.”

It’s neither expensive nor timeconsuming to get an accreditation certificate from the Ministry of Tourism. House owners interested in the scheme have to register with Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO). “It’s a fairly simple and painless process—with no palm-greasing involved. But I reckon that this is because the government is so aggressive on it. Once the matter shifts to the hands of the local bodies, things may get more tedious,” says Atwal.

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