Swedish tourist Laura Gunnbjörg has been travelling across India for the past two weeks. Tired of staying at hotels, Gunnbjörg has been waiting to soak in some local culture. So when she arrived in Delhi four days ago, she cancelled her hotel booking and opted to stay in a bed and breakfast joint instead.
“I wanted to know the city the way locals do, instead of relying on the Lonely Planet. I felt that staying at a B&B might help me see the real Delhi,” says the 36-year-old traveller whose favourite breakfast is of course, the aloo ka paranthas. “And I was right! From the food to the conversations to the places to visit, I’ve been having a great time exploring the city.”
Gunnbjörg isn’t the only one whose been exploring this option. According to the tourism ministry there are more than 850 bed and breakfast joints across the NCR, with 500 in Delhi alone : that’s over 2,500 beds in Delhi. And it’s no surprises that more and more tourists are now opting to stay at B&Bs.
International standards, an attached bathroom with every room, home-cooked food — these are just some of the things that have worked well for the B&Bs in Delhi. Of course, one of the main reasons for the sudden spurt in these joints is the government’s B&B scheme that was launched to encourage tourism before the Commonwealth Games. But reaping the benefits are the owners of these joints, who’ve been finding this approach both novel and beneficial.
Take for example exporter Arun Khanna’s Colonel’s Retreat in Defence Colony. A four-storied house with elevator access, Khanna has converted the top-two floors into a B&B. A full-time cook and housekeeping staff supervise the guests and Khanna often chats them up to understand what they are looking for in Delhi. “Private yet comfortable, B&Bs offer an experience that is very personal and local,” says Khanna. “And the best part is it’s extremely affordable as there are no taxes. So that means more money to spend on other things.”
Travel website Trip Advisor also backs this trend and feels that there has been a definite rise in the traffic for B&B on their site. “There has been an 20% increase in the visitors to B&B accommodation pages as well as a spurt in the number of reviews of the same,” says spokesperson Sharat Dhall. “Obviously this means that travellers are looking for a more personal living experience and this is becoming a popular choice.”
So is it just the expats who are opting to stay at B&Bs? No, says Anand Puri, owner of Saket B&B. “From wedding parties to the corporate traveller to long-staying guests, we’re seeing a lot of different people coming to stay in Delhi,” says Puri. “But while we’ve been running houseful till March, occupancy rates will dip to about 50 per cent in the summer months.”