While there’s continued demand for premium and luxury hotels that offer high safety standards, the severity of second wave has made covid safety protocol a top priority for travellers
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New Delhi:With the pandemic forcing tourists to opt for non-conventional lodging options such as homestays to maintain safety protocols, travel portal MakeMyTrip plans to add 15,000 alternative properties over the next 18 months.
“Since 2020, we have expanded the number of homestays or inventory by 90%. We are effectively adding over 1, 000 such properties on our platform every month. We have plans to add another 15,000 in the next 18 months," said Rajesh Magow, co-founder and group chief executive officer, MakeMyTrip Ltd.
Demand for premium and luxury hotels offering high safety standards is high, but the severity of the second wave of coronavirus has made covid safety protocols a top priority for travellers, he said, adding that MMT is seeing pent-up demand for alternative stays.
“Homestays were being preferred as they are often secluded, devoid of large crowd and relatively safer. These were the biggest factors driving growth of the category. Of late, homestays are becoming one of the prime non-hotel options for customers. This phenomenon was already popular globally, but it is fast catching on in India as well," Magow added.
There are broad sub-segments in the alterative stay category such as villas, service apartments and hostels (for casual and pilgrimage travellers), MMT said. Demand for accommodation are at 60-65% of pre-covid levels seen in February 2020. Within this segment, alternative or homestays have already recovered by more than 100%, it added.
“It simply means that we have been doing pre-pandemic volumes in this segment and the year is not over yet. Villas and service apartments have been growing the fastest. This segment is currently being driven by nuclear families (husband, wife and children) who opt for a workcation or staycation, bachelors who are opting for villas for budget’s sake and two or three families coming together and booking such stays so that they create a safe bio-bubble," MMT said.
Without divulging details of how much MMT has invested in the category, Magow said it is currently investing in tech and products as well as business development. On MMT’s homepage, a dedicated icon for ‘villas and apartments’ has been created for customers to check the properties. Even on the site for hotels, homestays have been listed. The company said it will start promotions and branding for this segment, apart from launching a dedicated app for hosts.
Magow said while the company is witnessing month-on-month improvement, overall recovery is nowhere close to pre-pandemic levels, as key segments such as international travel and flight capacity are still restricted. “From an overall perspective, the recovery is behind but from the domestic business standpoint, I think we are touching 60-65% of pre-pandemic levels," he added.
The Nasdaq-listed company’s plans to scale up homestays comes at a time when firms such as Airbnb and startups such as Vista Rooms and Saffronstays are aggressively looking to tap the segment.
While the homestay market has been largely dominated by domestic startups, large hotel chains such as the Taj Group, with the launch of sub-brands Ama Trails & Stays, too, are operating in this segment.
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