Hospitality

New home-stay policy on the anvil

DELHI: The Union Tourism Ministry is working on a new home-stay policy that aims to open up room supply for travellers while ensuring quality.

“After Start up India, Stand Up India, this is going to be the next big thing,” exclaims Ritesh Agarwal, founder and CEO of hotel-rooms network OYO Rooms, reports Business Line.

Explaining the idea behind the new policy, Suman Billa, Joint Secretary, Tourism Ministry, says: “We are at least 200,000 hotel-rooms short in India. It will be impossible for hotels to create that many rooms in the near term. But we believe there is a lot of idle inventory in non-traditional accommodation that can be put to productive use.” He says the Ministry has set up a committee comprising State Tourism Secretaries and other stakeholders to create a draft policy, which should be ready in a month. The policy also aims to have clear regulatory guidelines on home-stays and bed and breakfasts (B&Bs), a sector that has seen a lot of negative publicity of late. Currently, there is some amount of confusion on the categorisation of home-stays, which, according to some States guidelines, can only be places where the owner resides as well. These will be resolved.

“What we want to create is an accreditation policy that ensures delivery and service are not compromised,” he says. There will be two ways of doing this, he says. One is certification of properties under the Incredible India B&B stays. The other is certification of aggregators. “We will offer these guidelines to the States,” he says, pointing out that many States, such as Kerala and Maharashtra, have already come up with good policies.

“The first thing, which is non negotiable, is that the core product-offering should have clean toilets, linens, air-conditioning and access to Wi-Fi,” says Billa. He says there is a lot of scope of entrepreneurship to ensure this. “There could be mobile housekeeping units that could offer cleaning services to these home-stays.”

The Indian Institute for Travel and Tourism Management (IITTM) has been onboarded as an external consultant to help with the policy.

According to NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant, who has been evangelising entrepreneurship in tourism, the Incredible India B&B scheme has acquired a fair bit of momentum. “It has created a lot of jobs and has a lot of potential. I feel there are a lot of tourism products in rural areas — crafts, handlooms, and other experiences,” he says, pointing out that home-stays could disrupt and open up these areas. Billa feels promoting home-stays will be a great way of getting the community more involved in tourism, and help organise the category.

Despite the stormy travails of online home-stay aggregator Stayzilla, there is a lot of optimism about alternative accommodation among industry players. OYO’s Agarwal is gung-ho about the category, which he feels will explode soon.

India’s largest online travel agent, MakeMyTrip recently launched Rightstay, a home-stay offering. “The kind of exciting alternative accommodations you are getting in India today is a massive change,” says Deep Kalra, CEO, MMT, pointing to luxury and heritage home-stays that go beyond bed and breakfast and offer experiences.

Even Airbnb recently moved beyond home-sharing and extended into experiences, all of which, Kalra feels, will help change consumer mindsets about opting for home-stays.

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