Indian alternative accommodation market on the rise

India: Online travel platform Booking.com has reported that India has surged in popularity as one of its fastest growing markets for alternative accommodations.

The Amsterdam-based company has over 880,000 listings in India, of which about 140,000 are considered ‘alternative accommodation’, such as homestays, apartments, villas, BnBs, cabins, boats and treehouses. Hotspots such as Kerala, Karnataka and Goa have the highest number of properties within this category.

Booking.com claims to have 5.8 million global listings of homes, apartments and unique settings.

Around 20 per cent of its revenue comes in from alternative accommodations, while 40 per cent of the firm’s active customer base has booked a stay at an alternative accommodation property in the last year.

Booking.com senior vice president and head of accommodation, Pepijn Rijvers, said: “Our investments in this space have resulted in an alternative accommodation business with meaningful size and scale that recorded $2.8bn in revenue in 2018, representing approximately 20 per cent of the company’s overall revenue for the year. It also reached the important milestone of over $1 billion in revenues in Q3 2018 alone.”

Rijvers said that the 2017-18 season saw a 68 per cent increase in supply from India. According to him, the rise of disposable income among the Indian middle class is changing the attitude towards travel itself. He also revealed details about Booking.com’s India experience over the last one year, which writes testimony to his observation.

According to Booking.com’s research, the most-visited destinations for Indians travelling abroad are Dubai, Bangkok, Singapore, London and Kuala Lumpur. However, staycations are also a growing trend with India’s customer base, with 58 per cent of Indian travellers saying they preferred domestic staycations over foreign trips.

The most popular Indian cities to visit in the last calendar year were New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, and Hyderabad, as per the data. Meanwhile, it was reported that New Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur, Chennai and Bengaluru were the most visited cities in the country by overseas visitors.

In another indication of a rising trend, 33 per cent of travellers around the world said they choose eco-friendly accommodation, while 75 per cent of Indian travellers opt for that choice, according to Booking.com’s data.

Booking.com’s research data in 2018 suggests that two thirds of Indian travellers surveyed plan to stay at least once in a type of accommodation that they have not stayed in before. (The global trend among travellers to branch out is at 40 percent.)

Rijvers added that Booking.com employs data science extensively across its platform to remove any fake listings and heighten the quality of customer posts, as well as give hosts the guidance to improve their customer experience.

For example, its “Content Score” shows a host how attractive their content is to potential guests, while BookingSuite develops tools to help accommodation providers market and manage their properties more efficiently. This includes websites that accept direct online bookings and a rate data benchmarking tool that gives providers local demand and pricing details to allow them to set competitive rates.

In addition, Booking.com uses a “dynamic ranking system” which leverages data from its daily bookings to create specific search results for each guest. Accommodation providers are also able to check high-demand dates via the availability optimisation tool in the extranet.

An IBEF report this year found that the travel and tourism sector contributed $234 billion to India’s GDP and this is projected to rise to $492.2 billion by 2028.

Booking.com has said that India is already one of its most important global markets for growth, as shown by its partnerships with other online travel platforms such as MakeMyTrip, Yaatra, Ixigo and Trainman, as it looks to build greater global supply for its business.

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