Nakul Sharma is the CEO and founder of Hostmaker, London’s biggest Airbnb management company – and here he describes why he believes homestays and staying in a hotel are different sides of the same coin…
Over the last few years, homestays have become increasingly popular, with the explosion of companies such as Airbnb making these options a more convenient and cheaper way of staying in the world’s major cities. But does this explosion in popularity of homestays challenge the traditional hoteling industry or rather does it create a situation where the two can help each other?
Having worked in both the traditional hospitality industry and the property sharing sector, I can safely tell you that these two seemingly competing industries are actually more compatible then first glance might suggest. They are two sides of the hospitality coin, catering for different people with different and often complimenting strengths and weaknesses.
The main difference between the two is cost and the space available to enjoy a longer stay. Homestays generally tend to be lower in price than traditional hotels. As a result, they encourage travellers who would have maybe stayed for two-three nights in a hotel to stay longer and experience more of a destination. They are also preferred by a large group of people, or travellers looking for a room for month. Hotels are mainly tailored to the needs of an individual business traveller and aim to be efficient. Couples or groups travelling for leisure have very different needs. Rather than stealing clientele away from hotels, they are filling the gap in the market.
These two forms of hospitality also tackle the complications that come with very short or very long trips. Homestays provide much more flexibility, giving guests the option to stay for 3, 30 or 300 days, depending on their circumstances. Hotels are great for families or individuals looking to stay in one place for a few nights, but it can quickly become cumbersome when you want to move about or stay for an extended period.
By staying with a local through a homestay, travellers get a difference experience of the city. Before you would have had to explore a city with little or no knowledge, armed only with a guide book and relying on the hotel concierge. However, staying with a local offers guests a different perspective on a city and its culture. This is not something that everyone would like to experience as many people are happy to explore the city alone and enjoy the main attractions. Again, those that would have originally stayed in hotels are unlikely to migrate to homestays due to the fact that they are more interested in the comparative comfort of a hotel.
Many often say that they choose hotels for the luxury service and the knowledge that they can come and go without worrying about waking up their hosts or collecting their keys at a certain time. However, it is possible to replicate this service within the homestay market. Management companies, such as Hostmaker, have been able to bridge this gap in the market and provide a Hilton level experience to a regular homestay, offering a 5-star experience for guests and alleviating the pressure from the host.
Homestays often also offer unique properties. Treehouses, caravans and cabins are just a few of the types of accommodation you may find yourself in. For some people, the chance of a unique stay in an unusual location is an adventure, but others may be filled with a sense of dread. When you stay in a hotel, there is a standard that many people expect and more often than not, they receive. With a homestay, however, especially one in a quirky location, it can be very hard to determine. Those with a more adventurous streak may opt to go for a homestay but many people would still feel more comfortable with a traditional hotel.
So, when we discuss the future of hospitality, homestays are certainly part of it and a quickly growing part of it, but the demand for hotels is unlikely to be affected by the growth of this sharing economy industry. Both hotels and homestays occupy similar areas in the hospitality industry but by no means are their target market the same. Homestays do not have the capacity to steal the business of hotels and hotels cannot offer the individual experiences that homestays can. Rather than conflict, the two dovetail to offer customers different experiences to cater to individuals tastes.