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Live like a local

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Live like a local

Sunday, 11 August 2019 | Navneet Mendiratta

Live like a local

Increasing number of travellers are getting hooked to Bread and Breakfast arrangements that allow them the experience of staying at unique locations with a personal touch and comforts of home, writes Navneet Mendiratta

Twenty seven-year-old Jaya Gopal has been planning her upcoming wedding very meticulously. From a destination wedding at a heritage resort to a diving trip to Galpagos Island for her honeymoon, she has it all sorted. However, it is her bachelorette in Mykonos, Greece that has her closest crew most excited. What makes it off-beat is that Gopal has booked a B&B (Bread and Breakfast) space for her celebratory experience. “I’d be hosting my bachelorette at a beautiful villa with a sea view and a pool of its own. I have planned a theme pool party and my closest crew is looking forward to a very exciting holiday,” she shares. Gopal is only one of the increasing number of travellers who are opting for B&B arrangements for a personalised experience to travel the world.

While Indians have caught up to the trend, customising it to fit their experiences, in the recent times, the world travellers had embraced made the shift over the past couple of years. Travel surveys indicate that the rental homes got really popular with the travellers around 2018, with as many as one out of three travellers choosing to stay in one over a hotel and one in five home owners signing up to list their home on a travel accommodation site.

 Feels like home

The travellers these days are keen to have a local experience and are increasingly seeking to stay at a place that provides them the feel of being at a home in another country. There is an increasing tribe of celebrities who are signing up for AirBnb experiences to avoid public glare and enjoy their moments of privacy. Very recently, Lara Dutta and Mahesh Bhupathi chose to stay at AirBnb space during their Wimbledon trip. As did Rohan Bopanna and Leander Paes. In an earlier interaction, Dutta had shared about her preference for “homes with outdoor spaces and calming interiors” as these allowed her to make most of her family time. “My daughter loves to play in the gardens and splash in the pools,” she had shared.

While 11-year-old tech-hospitality platform, AirBnb is counted as a leader among the platforms for accommodation, there are others such as Booking,com, Homestay, Flipkey and Homeaway (to name a few) that are gaining popularity. The young travellers, especially the millennials are increasingly opting for B&Bs for the value that these spaces offer, especially to those travelling on budget. They are getting hooked to the experience of staying in unique locations with the personal touch and comforts of home. Just like a local.

“I prefer to stay in spaces that allow me the comfort of home, especially during longer stays,” says Manish Mehrotra, Corporate Chef, Indian Accent restaurants. For somebody who divides his time between New York and India, Mehrotra prefers the comfort of a rented apartment when not at home. “I now want spaces that allow me to cook and do little things by myself,” shares Mehrotra of his preference for apartments over hotels. “Some even come with a personal touch like a bottle of wine and launderette facilities. I try to find a place closer to my workplace, so I can even walk to work,” he shares.

The cost factor

The inherent value of a B&B lies in the fact that when travellers book a B&B, they don’t just get a bed—their reservation is complemented by various invaluable amenities such as homemade food, free Internet, and, most importantly, a hospitable staff.

A fully furnished set in a foreign locale works out so much cheaper than staying in a hotel, especially if on a longer trip. So found out frequent traveller and travel writer Alka Kaushik, who is now a B&B convert, especially when travelling with family. “Recently, I travelled to Spain with my elderly mother, who is a strict vegetarian. We chose spaces that were centrally located, with a living room and operational kitchen to ourselves. This worked really well in terms of budget as we could save on eating out and commute within the city,” she shared.

Her mother was most happy with the home like arrangement, where she did not have to struggle for food and could cook whatever she liked. Somebody who often like to travel solo and sometimes with a pet, she does not hesitate to share and recommend some safe and pet friendly options that she has stayed in. “All you need to do is put your required filter before making a booking,” she says. Kaushik has been booking her accommodations via Booking.com.

“Travel has always been something that I associate with freedom and independence. I like to revel in the unknown and love immersing myself in new cultures. While I never hold back when it comes to trying something new, I treasure the safe and familiar feeling of home no matter where I am,” shares Actor Mandira Bedi, for choosing to book B&B space on her travels. Bedi booked through AirBnb for her travels to Colombo, Goa and Portugal in the recent times.

The power of recommendations

B&B booking sites thrive heavily on recommendations and have formulated a reviewal system of their own. Platforms like AirBnb allow both a host and the guest to share their reviews on the other. These reviews become like your points for future bookings where the both the guest and host can refer to before choosing to rent/host. “As a guest, you can be rated on whether you were responsible, polite and no nuisance during your stay and likewise, as a host on whether you provided the guests with all that you had promised,” shares Kaushik.

Something like word of mouth where people trust their friends more than they trust traditional advertising. Studies show that travellers are willing to overlook a notable brand name, and even a low cost, in favour of a positive recommendation. This encourages the B&Bs to stand out for a good business. Another survey reports points out that over 75 percent of people do their own travel planning and 76 percent of people ranked recommendations as their primary consideration when booking lodging.

Most platforms allowed the host and the guest to interact before finalising their booking and even gave the host the right to refuse a guest. Some places even come with a human less contact, where the entire interaction plays on the app and the host and guest don’t have to meet in person.

Security and privacy are two big factors. As a solo traveller, I have been extra cautious in picking up accommodation that gives me an assurance that I am in a safe space,” Kaushik details. She recommends you opt for apartment complexes in a busy neighbourhood where local security systems are in place. “These apartments have their own cameras and guards. I find that particularly reassuring while ordering food at night or coming in late,” she adds.

Local connect

“The experiences get richer when you have a local to guide you,” shares Delhi based designer Anupama Dayal, a frequent traveller. Dayal likes to opt of B&B spaces that are offbeat and offer local experience. A host herself, Dayal offers her beautiful homestay at Mangar near Delhi to people looking for off-beat stays. “In my experience so far, I have played host to very evolved travellers who seem to be clued in to the concept,” she shares.

Likewise, she too, prefers to book lodgings that allow her to potter around in the kitchen and be herself. “There is a certain warmth to such spaces that make your stay very personal. A hotel may not be as intimate at times and sometimes restricting in terms of privacy,” she shares, recalling her stay at a Jodhpur B&B where she ended up forging a friendship with the host. “I was travelling with a purpose to pick up some furniture in the city. My hosts were not only warm, but they guided me to some really gem of places where I could do my shopping. I came back with some amazing pieces and a rich experience,” she recalls.

Be aware of any rider

To make sure that your B&B stay is a pleasant one, the seasoned travellers suggest you spend some time researching on the net before finalising on the space. “Make sure to ask about the host/guest expectations and understand where they come from,” says Radhika Jain, a banker and frequent traveller. Jain has been choosing B&B spaces for family travels with her two children and a dog.

“Most hosts like you to clean up and leave the place in the same condition as when you checked in. Make sure you get your instructions right to avoid any embarrassment or a poor review later,” suggests Kaushik, adding, “Also be very clear on what the host is offering to avoid any disappointments once you reach there.”

Do your research on the area to understand its profile and safety factors. Usually places close to the main or city centre are expensive as compared to those on the outskirts. Figure your transportation before booking a faraway space. You may find yourself stranded or end up paying more than what you would have otherwise.

Ask your host for local recommendations for a personalised experience, like a local bakery or places to eat, an art space or even shop. Some hosts offer special menus and walks through the city. It is a good idea to sign up in advance. For no one knows a city like a local. That’s what makes the experience special.

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