Staycation in isolation: Homestays open the door
Amid the current scenario of pandemic-induced precautions influencing our travel decisions, homestays seem all set to play a big role in the hospitality sector. Offering complete isolation from crowd, a blend of luxury with comfort and delectable – often customised – cuisine choices, homestays aren’t leaving any stones unturned to please their patrons.
Sustainable Travel Report 2021 by booking.com reveals the pandemic has influenced 88% of Indian travellers to want to travel more sustainably in the future. The report points that 74% of Indian travellers want to have authentic experiences that are representative of local cultures when they travel. Furthermore, 72% will go as far as avoiding popular destinations and attractions to ensure they aren’t contributing to overcrowding challenges and helping do their part to disperse the positive benefits of travel to less frequently visited destinations and communities.
And this is where homestays – with limited occupancy and an option to book the entire property without having to spend a fortune – gets an edge. Be it pristine forests near Nainital or Ranikhet in Uttarakhand or scenic beaches of Goa, homestays, both affordable and luxurious are present in most parts of the country. The fact that many of these have taken shape out of passion, instead of commercial allure, is what makes them all the more intimate.
“The concept that we work on is that we don’t do business, we make friends. So, we have so many repeat guests too,” says Ajay Yadav, owner of 10, Nautical Miles – Mountain cottage of a Mariner, situated in Ranikhet, Uttarakhand.
Tastefully decorated rooms offer a glimpse of the marine life, with craft pieces and paraphernalia from all different parts of world occupying a place of significance in different nooks and corners of the house. “As a marine I have travelled for 26 years now. I have travelled through the world and picked up memories – each one of these very special and unique, and that’s what our guests get to experience here,” he shares, adding that the quietness of the place is what made him zero on this place to craft their dream abode. “When sitting here you can even hear your heartbeat. Except for birds chirping, there is no other noise. Surrounded by a reserve forest, it is as green as it gets,” says Yadav.
Similarly, for Kolkata resident, Ujjaini Ghosh, the idea to turn her second home in Shantiniketan into a homestay, got her many new friends. “We have been hosting guests for two years at our homestay, Dui Pakhi – a name that’s derived from Rabindranath Tagore’s poetry. My experience has been very nice. I got a chance to make new friends. I’m a very passionate home decorator and I have handpicked all the furniture, every single décor item by myself,” she says, adding that considering Covid-19 protocols they now keep one day gap between two bookings, to properly sanitise their property.
In some instances, it’s also the urge to help the local community, which with times gets diversified and takes form of a community-based homestay. “We have been working for the empowerment of women and children from the underprivileged community. We are based right inside the community and have been part of this region for over two decades now. Recently, we turned a part of our center into a homestay and opened it up for the masses,” says Vikrant Bhandari, owner of Bareth Retreat Homestay, which is about 8 kilometers from Banswara in Uttarakhand and 180 kilometers from Rishikesh.
“We have comfortable accommodation for about 10 people. The village where we are situated is a very calm and quite area. You can have a community walk, spend time with the locals, and get yourself acquainted with local folklore and traditions,” he shares, adding that they expect guests to carry a Covid-19 RT-PCR report while coming here for a stay.
But by staying at a homestay, does one need to compromise of the luxuries? Ishan Seth, a businessman from Delhi, who has recently started his homestay Villa Travaholic in Vagator, Goa, says, “People now prefer to have their own villas, have their own butler rather than go to crowded accommodations and use common facilities. Here we have a private pool and complete isolation from outside contact. There is dedicated housekeeping team and excellent chefs that give you a top-notch experience.”
Moreover, at a time when pictures of overcrowded lanes of popular hill stations are forcing many to rethink their plans of a getting a break from the city’s hustle and bustle, a homestay could be the perfect alternative.
Parul Sharma, from Tilsharit Green, situated at a distance of around six kilometers from Dalhousie, Himachal Pradesh, says, “By staying with us amidst the mountain and greenery, one can skip the city rush and crowd. We offer home-cooked meals and there is no set menu. We customise meals according to choice and preference of our guests.”
“Post-pandemic, there is a greater urge to move out of the city. While making my homestay, the idea was to build a place which I can use with my friends and family, as well as lease it out to people who are looking for a lifestyle change,” concludes Seth.
And here are some homestays that are unique in their own manner.
Authentic Garhwali experience
Promising an authentic Garhwali experience to guests is Bareth Retreat, that’s nestled in the lap of Kedarnath Valley surrounded by rhododendron and oak forests. “Travellers can opt to trek to Deoriya Tal, Tungnath or Chandrashila, while staying here and can go fishing in the nearby stream. With no urban distractions, it offers a taste of Himalayan hamlet life,” shares Vikrant Bhandari, owner, Bareth Retreat Homestay.
Bengal’s old-world charm
Steeped in idyllic, old-world charm is Dui Pakhi, a homestay in Shantiniketan, West Bengal, that boasts of antique furniture and artistic interiors. A wide porch with an open terrace, with a pantry and a barbecue corner is what adds to its versatility. Located close to Shonibarer Haat and other cultural centres of the town, this intimate homestay is only large enough for a small group or a family. “Most guests tell us that they get the real Shantiniketan feel here,” shares Ujjaini Ghosh, who owns the property and has meticulously done the interiors herself.
A beach side vacay
When planning a restful vacation, it’s hard to not think of Goa, thanks to its relaxed atmosphere and pristine beaches. And the party heaven of the country is dotted with amazing homestays, including Villa Travaholic, that’s situated in Vagator. “Some of the best restaurants as well as the beach are in close proximity. With en-suite bedrooms and private pool, we promise the best comfort with memorable Goan hospitality,” says Ishan Seth, owner of the facility.