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Homestays vs. Hotels: The Great Debate

Homestays have undergone a remarkable transformation rivalling even the most prestigious hotels. We dive deeper. 

Appeared first on The Style List Travel Edit

In the realm of hospitality, a new star is ascending: luxury homestays. Once considered the domain of budget-conscious travellers seeking an authentic experience on a shoestring, homestays have undergone a remarkable transformation, evolving into havens of luxury and indulgence that rival even the most prestigious hotels. Today, homestays have become increasingly popular all over the world. Many people now prefer to stay at homestays instead of traditional hotels, mainly because they offer greater freedom, flexibility, and the ability to customize their stay according to their preferences. However, is this always the case?

This shift towards luxury homestays represents a change in how travellers perceive and experience accommodation, driven by a desire for exclusivity, privacy, and personalized service. As these lavish retreats continue to capture the imagination of discerning travellers, it's essential to delve into the reasons behind their rise and explore why they are increasingly preferred over traditional hotels.

The Dichtomony 

The conversation surrounding the preference for homestays over hotels has been gaining momentum, with an increasing number of travellers recognizing that not all that glitters is gold. Advocates for homestays often cite their perceived cost-effectiveness compared to hotels, yet this narrative conceals the reality of hidden fees and additional expenses that can catch guests off guard. As highlighted by Rajiv Ranjan, owner of Amor Hospitality, the allure of homestays can be deceptive, “You can’t expect a hair dryer at every Airbnb,” says Rajiv Ranjan, owner of Amor Hospitality. 

Rajiv Ranjan, owner of Amor Hospitality

The everyday conveniences provided by hotels, such as readily available amenities and round-the-clock support, contrast sharply with the more hands-on approach required at homestays. While some homestays strive to bridge this gap by offering modern comforts akin to those found in hotels, the absence of standardized service and the risk of encountering unaddressed issues can create a less-than-ideal guest experience, particularly in urban settings. In the realm of accommodation, accountability stands as a towering pillar. The weight of reputation and the pursuit of excellence ensure that hotels have much more at stake when it comes to guest satisfaction and safety. Security measures are meticulously implemented, with the entire property monitored by a network of CCTV cameras.

Conversely, the realm of homestays paints a different picture, one fraught with concerns over safety and security. Moreover, homestays nestled in remote locales present their own set of challenges. Devendra Parulekar sheds light on this, noting that the seclusion of many homestays gives rise to complaints about outdoor nuisances like insects and mosquitoes, particularly in the evening hours. While such issues may not be exclusive to homestays and can potentially arise in any lodging, the structured environment of a hotel typically offers a more controlled and managed setting, minimizing the likelihood of encountering such inconveniences. 

Image: SaffronStays

Despite these challenges, the rising popularity of homestays is not without merit. Properties listed on platforms like Airbnb offer travellers a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in local culture and architecture, fostering a sense of authenticity and connection that hotels often struggle to replicate. 


The Rising Culture of Homestays

While hotels undoubtedly offer a standardized and often stress-free experience, they can sometimes lack the charm and flexibility that travellers seek. In such instances, homestays emerge as an appealing alternative, providing a unique opportunity for exploration and immersion in local culture. Properties listed on Airbnb, for instance, can be an excellent way to experience firsthand the local culture, authentic flavour, and architecture of a city. 

Homestays came as a breakthrough in the hospitality industry, and for good reason: the promise of a one-of-a-kind, homely experience. Besides, the changing face of the world has greatly contributed to the increasing interest in homestays. This sentiment is echoed by Jayant Singh, founder of Treehouse Hotels and Resorts, “The reason for this evolution is the recent rise in hybrid work models post-Covid wherein work from anywhere or work from home has become a reality. The demand for domestic travel is booming with the increase in disposable incomes, and we see similar trends in every aspect of life in India.” 

Jayant Singh, Founder & MD, TreeHouse Hotels

For those valuing privacy above all else, homestays offer a compelling idea. As Rajiv Ranjan notes, the seclusion afforded by these accommodations ensures that guests can enjoy a sense of freedom and autonomy without the prying eyes of others. However, the anonymity afforded by hotels can sometimes be discouraging for those seeking a more intimate and immersive travel experience, notes Amrit Dhillon, owner of The Verandah Homestay. Nevertheless, Dhillon emphasizes the importance of striking a balance between guest privacy and personalized interactions. Despite the allure of privacy and personalized experiences, it's essential to recognize that quality comes at a cost. Amrit Dhillon, owner of The Verandah homestay, emphasises, “If customers want a homestay which has lovely furnishings, good service, a good team (staff), and good food, then they may find that it’s not going to be as cheap as they think it should be, or expect it to be, compared with a hotel.” 

Dhillon further notes that guests staying at homestays in India often expect the same pampering they receive at hotels, including special meal requests, changes in eating times, or a complete change in schedule. However, she highlights the challenges of meeting these expectations, stating, “These things are not as easy to provide in a homestay as they would be in a hotel," and acknowledges her staff's efforts to go the extra mile to accommodate such requests. Indeed, this is exactly the kind of experience guests want and are paying for. 

Image: The verandah

Yet, despite the potential drawbacks, guests often find themselves willing to accept the trade-offs for the unparalleled experience of being immersed in nature. Devendra Parulekar of SaffronStays acknowledges the concerns voiced by guests but highlights their appreciation for the unique opportunity to commune with the natural world. Parulekar says, “Guests appreciate the personalized attention and care they receive at SaffronStays. From homemade meals prepared with love to insider tips on exploring the local area and curating set-ups for celebrations, our staff go above and beyond to ensure guests feel at home.” This focus on experiences rather than just amenities has reshaped the way travellers approach accommodation, with many prioritizing authenticity and connection over luxury and convenience.

Embracing the Shift

The rise of Airbnb and homestays has democratized travel in many ways, making it more accessible to a broader range of travellers. With options available at various price points, from budget-friendly rooms to luxurious villas, travellers have greater flexibility to find accommodations that suit their preferences and budgets. From cosy apartments in bustling city neighbourhoods to charming cottages nestled in picturesque villages, this democratization of accommodation has empowered travellers to explore destinations beyond the traditional tourist hotspots, encouraging the growth of alternative tourism and supporting local economies. 

Devendra Parulekar, Founder, SaffronStays

However, despite their growing popularity, Airbnb and homestays are not without their challenges. Concerns around safety, regulation, and impact on local communities have sparked debates in many destinations, leading to regulatory crackdowns and restrictions in some cases. Additionally, the lack of standardised quality control and consistency can sometimes result in varying experiences for guests, leading to frustration and disappointment. 

Nevertheless, the rising trend of Airbnb's and homestays represents a fundamental shift in the way we travel and experience the world. As travellers continue to seek out unique, authentic experiences, the demand for alternative accommodations is likely to persist and evolve. By embracing diversity and embracing the spirit of exploration, the future of hospitality promises to be as exciting and dynamic as the destinations we seek to discover.

Indigo Bali


At the end of the day, it all boils down to personal preference. Some might think hotels are better than homestays, and some might think the opposite is true, but it depends on the merits and demerits of each property. There is no right answer when we think about which of the two is better. 

However, in the realm of hospitality, a new star is ascending: luxury homestays. Once considered the domain of budget-conscious travellers seeking an authentic experience, homestays have undergone a remarkable transformation, evolving into havens of luxury and indulgence that rival even the most prestigious hotels. 


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