Last year was probably a page-turner when it comes to evolving travel trends in India. I firmly believe that 2016 is the year which steered the Indian traveller as well as the Indian travel industry towards a new direction. While famous and touristy places still make a major portion of the travel-pie, finally offbeat destinations have started making their presence felt in a huge way. Another major trend that seems to evolve with a rapid pace is vacation accommodation, with the focus shifting from hotels to homestays, and rightly so. I am a huge believer in the concept of homestays, and today, let me take this opportunity to convert you as well. Here are ten reasons why a homestay is always a better option than a hotel –

1- Travel is all about experiencing the new and embracing everything local while you’re out exploring a place you’ve not been to before. What could be a better beginning than to be staying with a localite, in a home that is typical of the place you’re visiting? Trust me, there cannot be a more authentic experience than sharing a local’s home for a couple of days. While hotels can provide you the luxury, they almost always cannot provide you an experience you’ll remember for long.

2- Choosing a homestay almost always means that you have someone who can guide you about the place better than any guidebook in the world. From what to see, where to shop, what and where to eat – no guidebook can provide you better tips on these than a localite who has opened up their home to visitors in their city. Not everyone has the heart to do it, and those who do, sure have a passion for it, which shows. I have had long conversations with hosts which ended up changing my itinerary completely, and for the good!

3-Once you’ve stayed at a homestay, hotels feel like mass-produced clothes while homestays  feel like limited edition designer outfits. Homestays are…exclusive, while hotels are, more or less, all the same for a given budget-range. And then, they lack the customization that a homestay can provide. Add to that the liberty one can take to brew up a cup of tea or make a midnight snack in the kitchen. So for those who’re the exclusive kinds, homestays are a perfect option.

4- For those who travel solo, homestays are the best travel decisions they can take. If you would enjoy some company and conversations after spending a day exploring the town solo, homestays are your best bet. Instead of heading to an empty hotel room, if you would better enjoy heading home to someone waiting for you at the dinner table, skip that hotel room I say!

5- A trip to a new destination is always incomplete without tasting the local food. While there will always be a plethora of options to choose from, nothing really can match a home-cooked meal. If the travel is longish, then anyway one cannot really survive on the kind of food most places serve. Homestays solve this problem beautifully with delicious home-cooked food, often made using local produce. If you are craving for something special, most of the times the hosts would be happy to satisfy that appetite as well.

6- Homestays can surprise you in a way like hotels can never imagine to. Like when I was staying with a family at their farmhouse in Punjab, their ten-year-old daughter surprised me with an artwork that was as heartwarming as the morning sun. How can fake smiles at hotels ever match up to a kid’s beautiful gesture? 

7- Homestays are perfect because they reflect the personal style of the hosts and not of some corporate organizations where one shoe fits all. Each homestay has its own essence, which is what I feel, lacks in hotels. While most hotels boast about room with views and charge exorbitantly for them, it is living at a homestay that can really connect you to a place and introduce you to the tea-shop in the neighbourhood which sells super delicious samosas as well. #TrueStory

8-Being an avid traveller and a torch-bearer of Responsible Tourism, I feel it’s only natural that homestays be given preference over hotels because in this way, we are giving back to the place so that it can prosper and develop, instead of giving our hard-earned money to huge corporate houses. These hotels will anyway flourish, with or without a responsible traveller, but the concept of homestays has to be nurtured and loved and inculcated in travelers for the bigger good.

9- A hotel can pamper you and you can enjoy all the luxury but a homestay almost always provides you a story. Sometimes, it is evident and sometimes, it’s a treasure hunt which ends with a jackpot of interesting information about the native people, the place and many perspectives you didn’t even know existed.

10 – The best part about homestays is that you always end up making friends. And isn’t it great to have friends around the world? Which hotel in the world can give you a chance to interact with people and become a part of their lives for the time of your stay and beyond?

Direct Dil Se