Last year was filled with many learnings. Moreover, it was a year where we saw both the revival and revision of many industries. Case in point - the hospitality industry. Traditional vacation rental markets, earlier restricted to a select demographic in India, have found their way to the mainstream. A drastic shift in preference is evident. Travellers that once sought chic hotels now look for standalone lodging. The pandemic, need for social distancing and other factors have significantly contributed to the country's long and short-term vacation home rental market.
As the country's economy is on its course to recovery, the real estate sector is also witnessing a rise in the demand for second homes, especially in tier-2 and tier-3 cities because of affordability and better growth prospects. These homes are in turn being rented out to guests as vacation homes.
In terms of preferred destinations for vacation homes, the emerging destinations in South include Pondicherry, Nandi Hills, in Chennai Kottivakkam, Mahabalipuram and Kovalam with beach-front properties are the hot favourites for secondotspot homes.
In the West, while Alibaug, Lonavala, and Goa are preferred locations, in the North, farmhouses at Chattarpur, Jaipur, Shima continue to be preferred destinations. These homes away from home rentals give a unique perspective to travellers, often more immersive, look at the city they are staying in.
What Travellers Want From Their Vacation Homes
The pandemic has further created new use cases for holiday homes, that perhaps only privy to more mature vacation home rental markets around the globe. Let's take a look at key travel trends driving demand for the vacation home rental market.
Work + Vacation
The extended or permanent remote working arrangement gave travellers the flexibility to live and work from anywhere in the world. Not just professionals but even students have moved to remote learning enabling families to plan vacations or long-term stays in any part of the country as long as there is high-speed internet connectivity. Travelling families in the world of remote working and schooling have created a demand for 'work + vacation' and 'school + vacation', which includes customised distance learning facilities, private lessons and other similar facilities part of one's vacation home's bouquet of offerings. The homes with a bunch of offerings for example with a swimming pool for fun activities with kids attract more guests.
Sustainable, Eco-Friendly and Immersive Travel Experience
Bucket list travel will take centre stage as people will be keen to explore their top dream domestic destinations. Experiential travel or culture-infused trips will emerge as a big part of travels of the future, where individuals and families will look forward to a wholesome culture experience. Travellers will also seek solace in destinations and locations that reconnect them with nature. Treehouses, beach houses, igloos or sky domes travellers in 2021 will want to stay off the grid while staying connected. This also indicates a shift from urban jungles to suburban and rural retreats for one-of-a-kind unique experiences. Recently,we at OYO Hotels & Homes opened up boutique home-stays under OYO Home in the Kevadia district in Gujarat to bring a flavour of staying like a local to the lives of travellers. Local cuisine, regional flavour plays a big part of home-stays. Many home-owners align with local food vendors to provide a delightful selection of best local produce to the guests.
Health and Wellness Experiences During Vacations
In 2020, our physical and mental wellbeing acquired a whole new meaning. This resulted in offbeat stays such as wellness staycations, self-care and 'immunity booster' retreats, one of the most sought after use cases for a new age traveller. According to a recent report, wellness tourism is slated to grow at an average annual rate of 7.5 per cent by 2022. Customised offerings, including simple-site massage or meditation sessions at vacation homes, will add enormous value for travellers.
Tech Solutions in the Vacation Home Space
The growing popularity of vacation homes across the globe comes with its fair share of challenges. Travellers expect standardisation of service quality, just as they would in a conventional hotel. And all this at a reasonable price point. Technology plays a significant role in organising the otherwise dynamic and self-governing ecosystem.
Creating a tech ecosystem in the market enabled with the power of AI-driven competitive pricing solutions will help deliver service at an affordable price point. This will also help home-owners capitalise on peak-periods, event-based demands, and similar opportunities. The AR-VR driven discovery process can also help travellers choose their preferred stays, especially for long hauls.
Touchless/contactless service delivery will continue to be a differentiating factor for vacation homes of the future. Safety and hygiene tops the list of the demand of every traveller in the 'next normal'. It ranges from hygienic service, comfort at par with hotel standards and food safety and hygiene practices with technology at the core of the vacation home offerings. Given this context, vacation home rental brands such as OYO Home with its technology, transformation capabilities, and deep expertise in standardising amenities provide high-quality guest experience and empower local home-owners in the country to become exceptional hospitality players.
We have entered 2021 with travellers confidence coming back as we continue to witness an uptick in leisure travel at the beginning of the year. We're hopeful that vacation home rentals will go a long way in supporting the tourism sector's recovery and contribute to the country's economic health.
The author is Chief Executive Officer, Frontier, OYO India & South Asia leading the OYO Home brand in the country