By Anshul Saxena
On the occasion of National Tourism Day today, it is an opportune time to look back and reminisce about how tourism fared especially from a homestay/Bed-n-Breakfast (BnB) perspective.
India is widely regarded as a fascinating land of heritage, inter-mingling of cultures and more recently a fast progressing economy. However, this previous year had more than it’s shares of upheavals and chaos our country.
Yes, there have been cases of tourist harassment, less than perfect tourism management and other safety issues but there is also an underlying fabric of Indian hospitality that has shone on quite a few occasions this year. It has renewed my faith in Indian hospitality and I hope it overcomes the negatives about it. In an earlier post, we had shared reasons why women would love staying in a Bed and Breakfast. You can read it here: http://bit.ly/2jieNEU.
- Agitation in Srinagar: Remember the 60 odd day agitation where our security forces had to deal with miscreants in the crowd who were rioting for terrorist(s)? Well, it did hamper the tourism in the valley as Srinagar became unsafe. Since Srinagar also acts as a through route for Leh/Ladakh region, many Leh bound visitors cancelled their trips, cut them short or delayed them.
This could not kill the spirit of the local hosts though. Many of the locals prioritized the safety of the tourists over business and not only guided the incoming tourists remotely, but also took risks in picking them up from Srinagar airport in the evenings and personally escorting them into Leh/Ladakh valleys. A homestay owner who I know personally, risked his life and shelled out his own money to drive down to Srinagar personally and extract the Leh bound tourists to their destinations without asking for a single extra penny!
- Demonetization drive: Although the demonetization drive seems to be a step in the forward direction, it left many of the foreign travelers in shock and painful situations. We had shared the rationale behind the demonetization drive in an earlier post, read it here http://bit.ly/2h1B6jw.
A lady, Jenny who was only carrying Indian currency and was here for a medical condition became helpless because not only could she not pay tariff for her stay but could not even foot her medical bills as the hospital she checked into refused to honor the government’s mandate to accept cash for medical purposes. However, the host family (Ms. Kapoor) Jenny had been staying with asked her to pay them after she returned to her country. Not only that, they also helped Jenny pay for her medical bills. Jenny had come to India a bit apprehensive about women’s safety issues, esp. in Delhi, but went back singing praises of the hospitality she had received!
- It is surprising to know but quite a few American and European exchange students visit India every year and they usually stay for three to six weeks. But it is unfortunate that most of their Indian facilitators make them stay in shoddy, shady accommodations in equally unsafe locations. When they learnt about the option of homestays in India and saw how good they can be, these students did not mind shelling out a bit of extra money to live in the comforts of homes in residential areas. Many homestay owners treated these children as their own and looked after their needs as they would, of their grandchildren.
Some of the students went back home after learning some cool Indian culinary skills they had learnt from the kitchens of their hosts! Since then we have witnessed a surge in requests for good, quality and preferably homestay accommodations from the incoming foreign students.
To conclude, Indian hospitality is a unique brand, which needs to be nurtured and allowed to grow. While this past year has been difficult for our tourists, both domestic and foreign, it has also brought forth quite a few positives which have laid the foundation of “Atithi Devo Bhava” in a whole new meaningful way. Hope 2017 turns out better!
About Anshul Saxena:
CEO and Co-Founder of BnBNation, Anshul is a 2013-14 graduate from IIM Ahmedabad. He has over 10 years of experience across the public, private and government sectors. He has spent a bulk of his career in the US building software products, some of which are used by the top banks and financial institutions. He has worked with Airtel and won accolades for his hard work, business acumen and single point dedication. He has decided to jump on the startup bandwagon as he believes through this endeavor of BnB Nation, he can be a part of the new upcoming disruption in the tourism/hospitality space in India, and create an everlasting value proposition.