Growing importance of alternative accommodation in India

By Ravi Taneja

Industry legacy

There were only a few ways to book accommodation a few years ago, either we asked our local tour operator or rang the property ourselves to make a reservation. This was when paying money to buy flight tickets and hotel accommodation on the World Wide Web was considered a daring gamble. The distribution channel was controlled by these few, and they set the standard and variety of accommodation to be sold on their platforms, be it online or over the phone.

Travel and accommodation options

Leisure or business needs, our civilization keeps moving from one point to another. We eat, we move, we rest, and we repeat. With air, water, and roads all explored and mastered for our movements, there is a quite disruption growing its roots ever so gently in the accommodation space in the travel and tourism industry, at least here in India and most parts of Asia.

For the modern day traveller, the accommodation options are of three categories; large, luxury hotel chains (mainly occupied by the society’s elite for leisure and high value business travellers), two, budget hotels (occupied by business and leisure travellers), and then comes the new age travel homes or as we colloquially call them as ‘Homestays’ and they are designed to accommodate anyone who seeks a unique experience, rather than copy-paste identical rooms and suites.

There were times when homestay owners created obscure profiles for their properties on third party websites, just to show up on Google search. How else would the general public contact them? Then came the Facebook pages, and flagship websites… until now (or quite a few years ago).

Distribution disrupted

Airbnb took North America by storm by turning people’s rooms and attics into boutique staying spaces overnight and that too at a fraction of a cost for the traveller. Bright minds across the world took their heed and replicated the wonderful success formula of throwing the red carpet opens to boutique properties (ranging from a bungalow to a cozy flat) to the travelling diasporas. The world has never been the same since.

Go-MMT,, Agoda, Expedia are just a few platforms where any of us can find unique staying destinations easily. While it is easy to offer variety in accommodation and attract the travelling public, but the real success story written by these platforms is how they enticed and retained property owners and their faith in the system.

These platforms massively simplified the sign up, guest booking and review, and the payment process. This is where millions of properties located in the hinterlands of our gorgeously diverse country can list their rooms and villas on internet based platforms and be happy about it.

In an industry like ours, the platforms realized that data is the king and made arrangements for property owners to access analytical data about their own properties via a backdoor access called the dashboard.

A whole wide world of options

Though the revolution in the accommodation space feels like it happened just a few years ago, the industry has long since moved on from the simplistic dashboard. Today, there are scores of software applications which can be integrated onto the platforms and sites to gain a better understanding of the inner workings of a property’s performance or the lack of, sometimes. Channel Managers, Booking Engines, Revenue Managers are just a few types of software wizardry available at affordable costs even for an owner of a single, humble property with a few rooms.

The future is bright, only if managed wisely

With daring new entities ready to push the tourism industry to heights we have never seen before with technical wizardry, with venture capital investors ready to back them and the younger generation of business owners in the accommodation space open to new ways of managing and succeeding in this highly competitive sector, the future is really bright indeed.

Like how it is impossible to place all our eggs in one basket and expect glowing results, there is some method to the madness of choosing the right distribution channel or partner. It is indeed part science and part convenience for property owners to choose the right partner, be it while choosing a distribution partner or the buying that next big cloud-based software application which promises you the world and delivers a county. Like the adage of Telebrands (remember this American based selling network?) all I would say is “Choose Wisely and Live Well”.

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