New homestay

With vacation rentals Indian travellers can now pay less for more privacy

Saurabh Jain, a 30-year-old Mumbai-based banker, decided to do something different for his annual vacation to Goa this year — instead of booking a standard hotel room in the costly tourist paradise, he booked a one-bed apartment near Anjuna via TripAdvisor. “We paid Rs.15,000 for the week, almost half of what we would have paid for a single room,” he raves about the experience. “We cooked our meals in a kitchenette. The landlady was warm and helpful; she even sent a driver to pick us up and gave us local tips.” Vacation rentals of furnished homes, whether modest flats or expansive villas, offer a more private and economical holiday for a growing number of travellers such as Jain. And the Indian market for them is just about picking up. 

The key catalyst for India is the increasing reach of the internet. Popular sites like Airbnb and HomeAway have seen the market for vacation rentals erupt in the US and Europe over the past few years. HomeAway listed on Nasdaq in June 2011 and has over 325,000 rental listings; its revenues increased by 37% over 2010 to $230 million in 2011. Now, these websites, HomeAway, VacationRentalsIndia, TripAdvisor and Airbnb, have turned their sights on India with dedicated sections and increased listings for Indian properties. Sites like RatedApartments and TripVillas, run by Indians based abroad, are beginning to focus on India as a key market. 

Travel research firm PhocusWright says there’s significant scope for growth in the market. Adds Sid Narang, founder of RatedApartments, “Internet sites like ours create a win-win proposition for both home owners and travellers.” OtherHome lists 500 vacation rentals. “There are about 4,000-6,000 properties listed in India as holiday homes,” points out Manoj Agarwal, MD, OtherHome. 

According to him, Kerala, Goa, Karnataka, Himachal, Delhi and Rajasthan have the most rentals; Goa, Delhi and Himachal have around 500-600 listings each. It looks like vacation rentals will fare better than homestays because, as Agarwal explains, “It is typically foreigners who like homestays to get an authentic Indian cultural experience while the domestic traveller is rather looking to get away from it all.”