To compete in a growing market, online travel agency MakeMyTrip is raising focus on its homestay segment, as more and more group travellers prefer booking such accommodations on a holiday.
Classified as ‘Villas and Apts’ (villas and apartments) on the MakeMyTrip (MMT) platform, the firm has around 170,000 properties listed globally, of which 20-25,000 are in India. This number is likely to increase.
"We’re seeing one or two mega trends in the (travel) market. One or two big vacations are being replaced by four smaller vacations. And, the profile of travellers is becoming wider. It is no longer young people but also senior professionals, women solo travellers and so on. Therefore, the choice that customers are demanding is becoming wider," says Vipul Prakash, chief operating officer.
Sometimes, he adds, the reason to choose a homestay over a hotel could be economics. Instead of booking, for example, two rooms for a family of six, people prefer booking a more luxurious villa or apartment that they can have to themselves and also pay much less.
MMT has to ensure that basic security and cleanliness are provided by a homestay. Other amenities can be discussed by the traveller with the person booking the accommodation directly. “We try to provide as honest an assessment of what the property facilities are...but, as you are looking at a property or homestay, you can directly reach out to the host through the app and have your questions answered,” explains Prakash.
Last month, a survey by the Gurugram-based entity had 48 per cent of the 3,000 respondents saying they were most likely to book alternative accommodation — villas, apartments, homestays, hostels, cottages, farm stays — for their next trip. The trend is led by millennials (roughly, those born between 1981 and 1996), who show higher propensity for doing this. While US-based Airbnb clearly leads the homestay segment, the other big player in online travel, Booking.com, has also been adding alternative accomodations to its listings.
“Competition is linked to the opportunity. We saw an opportunity about five years ago and have invested in this,” says Prakash. “We were in a way always participating in this but more effort had to be made in order to give it the sort of strength that our other businesses, like hotels, have. The team has been working on it for the past six months and now is a good time to make it top-of-mind for the customer.”
India’s domestic travel market is expected to grow 11-11.5 per cent to $48 billion (Rs 3.4 trillion) by 2020, according to a report by Google India with The Boston Consulting Group.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said in his Independence Day speech this year that people should think of visiting at least 15 tourist destinations across the country before 2022.
For leisure travel, Prakash says, places such as Goa, Coorg or Manali are popular. However, there is an equally big market in big cities for corporate travel. So, if a person is spending 20 days a month travelling, big cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Gurugram also see huge interest.