Without doubt the homestay business across the country has come to a grinding halt due to the outbreak of Coronavirus pandemic. There has been unprecedented loses not only in terms of business, but also employment. Many homestay businesses are run on lease properties are the most hit, along with owners for whom this was their primary business.
Now, if we go by what industry experts and economists have us to believe, the revival of the hospitality industry which includes hotels, homestays, travel agents, transport, etc. is at the least nine months. And they do have a point here – travel restrictions on air travel are likely to stay, operating trains, public transport, inter-state travel, and following physical distancing norms in the country is something next to impossible.
Moreover we are today on the 5th day of lockdown 3.0 and active cases of Coronavirus are still rising exponentially. Going by the current trend, I feel India is still to reach its peak, which only means that the days of lockdown 3.0 is not likely to end on May 17.
But let’s look at the scenario beyond COVID-19. Once we have won the war on the Novel Coronavirus, things will however not immediately come back to normal, but we have to pick up the pieces and get our business back on its feet, even if it is end of this year or in 2021!
However the silver lining for homestay owners and it’s quite a substantial one, is they are bound to do good business when things get better. Here’s is why:
There will be several restrictions on international travel long after Coronavirus and till there is a vaccine available in the market. Plus people will still be apprehensive of travelling abroad for leisure. Moreover looking at the state of the country’s economic status, and pay-cuts of employees, taking an overseas vacation will no longer be affordable. So they will look to take a vacation within the borders of the country. So homestay owners stand to capitalize on this segment of new domestic travelers.
Secondly, the domestic tourism industry is about 87 percent. This is a huge chunk. Homestay owners should try to aggressively focus on this segment. This is where their business profits are.
Meanwhile another opportunity has opened up for homestay owners. My sources in the Kumaon region alone tell me that with zero guests, several mid-sized hotels have closed down in the March-May period. Many hotels which were running on lease have gone back on their contracts with lessors, because they were unable to pay or thinking that the business will not pick up any time soon. Other hotels have let go of their staff because with no business they were unable to pay them. Because hotels require more manpower to run their property unlike homestays, where the caretaker along with the owner can effectively run the business, they will require more time to get back on their feet. Hotels will be losing time recruiting new staff and training them. Homestays on the other hand can start business immediately when things are back to normal.
So homestays can expect a good number of guests that would have otherwise stayed in these hotels.
Fourth, guests will be jittery about staying in hotels which will also have other guests. They will be suspicious of cleanliness and sanitization of rooms and common areas of hotels that will have no control of various people coming and going. As such homestays will be regarded as vacationing havens owing to their limited rooms, and thus minimum chances of rubbing shoulders with guests whom they have never met. Also homestay owners are more forthcoming in taking care of guests and taking corrective measures to calm their nerves compared to an overworked hotel staff when it comes to cleanliness based on guests’ requirements.
So in a nutshell, every homestay owner, currently, must be feeling like the end of the world vis-à-vis their business, but this time will pass and better days await them.
I’m a hopeless optimistic. Take it from a person who was to start his homestay business in April this year, and now have to wait for another six to nine months. After all hamara bhi time aayega. Let’s live in that spirit and tide over the crisis in hand. Health first!!