OT Survey: Homestay Owners On The Safety Of Women Guests

For these homestay owners, a hotel can't outweigh the charm of a remote stay, which ensures the best local experiences and a secure environment for female travellers
For female travellers, safety is a top priority when planning trips
For female travellers, safety is a top priority when planning tripsShutterstock

Safety is paramount for female travellers while planning a trip due to concerns over gender-based harassment and comfort. The apprehensions were echoed in the Outlook Traveller-Toluna What Women Want survey, which revealed that nearly 90 per cent of women travellers prioritise safety while opting for a destination, and another 59 per cent agreed that they had faced harassment while on the go. A deciding factor that strengthens the safety parameter is comfortable and friendly accommodation.

So, "What Women Want" is a space where their privacy is not breached and one that ticks all safety checkboxes. As per the survey findings, female travellers zero in on hotels over other places as their ideal stay spot. Of the 1,214 women interviewed, the data underlined that 60 per cent of women prefer hotels while 20 per cent prefer homestays/camps, despite the latter being more budget-friendly.

When we contacted female homestay owners about what makes the hotels a top pick, Shilpa Karkare of Rustic Holidays in Maharashtra's Tural said she was "amazed" by the data. "We see more female travellers, especially solo female travellers, of which 25 per cent stay here frequently."

For Karkare, hotels are boxed spaces, where travellers' experience is defined by luxe, not experiential tales. "The idea of a journey for travellers is no longer about staying in a hotel; it is about soaking in local experiences, which are best offered at homestays."

Shilpa Karkare with husband Nitin Karkare
Shilpa Karkare with husband Nitin Karkarerusticholidays/Instagram

She emphasised that people already have access to a luxury-driven lifestyle and want to connect with themselves, and a hotel is not the place for it. Talking about the safety of female guests, Karakare highlighted how 90 per cent of its female staff make the guests feel at home.

Aligning with Karkare, Ahana Gurung, who runs PaliGhar Homestay in West Bengal's Kalimpong, said, "We have not received any safety-related complaints or feedback. A solo woman guest who has stayed with us twice is planning her third trip with us again. It is a testament to what we do and our approach to safety." However, she pointed out that vehicle-related harassment has been a common concern, and her team works with a carefully selected handful of taxis whose services are available to guests when requested.

Ahana Gurung (in white shirt) at Outlook’s Responsible Tourism Summit and Awards 2024
Ahana Gurung (in white shirt) at Outlook’s Responsible Tourism Summit and Awards 2024palighar/Instagram

Safety Apprehensions

Jyoti Chaturvedi (in red suit) with a guest at her homestay
Jyoti Chaturvedi (in red suit) with a guest at her homestayJyoti Chaturvedi

At Little Bus Homestay, Jaipur, the female tourist footfall has significantly improved after the pandemic. "Compared to Indians, foreigners are more interested in choosing a homely space over a chic setting like a hotel or resort. These female travellers are also less apprehensive about their safety," owner Jyoti Chaturvedi told us.

However, she added, "The solo Indian female travellers have concerns about their safety, as opposed to the women who come in groups to stay with us. The safety apprehensions are generally over privacy. There is also a sense of discomfort when it comes to staying with a new family."

Shailza Sood, co-founder, Homestays of India
Shailza Sood, co-founder, Homestays of IndiaShailza Sood

Meanwhile, for Shailza Sood, the co-founder of Homestays of India, female travellers feel safe during their stay. "All our homestays are family-run entities managed by well-trained women. There has never been any safety-related complaint by our female guests." However, she suggested accommodations like village homestays should consider hiring local female staff members and guides to create a more secure environment with practices like thorough background checks of potential guests. "This practice can help filter out any individuals with questionable intentions and ensure the safety of female guests."

What's Better: Hotels Or Homestays?

Saying that it would be unfair to prioritise one over the other, the homestay owners backed up that the hotel location makes all the difference. "The hotels are mostly nestled in prominent locations where necessities like market or transportation are easier to find. While homestays' offbeat vicinity may act obstructive sometimes," said Little Bus Homestay's Chaturvedi.

As for homestays, she opined that these are more personalised spaces and offer an immersive vibe. "If any of our guests fall sick, we look after them like our own family members."

Meanwhile, the stay location also affects travellers' choices for Dekyi Yangchen Dolkar Gyats of Biksthang Heritage Farmhouse, Sikkim.

Dekyi Yangchen Dolkar Gyatso with husband Gyurmey Namgyal
Dekyi Yangchen Dolkar Gyatso with husband Gyurmey NamgyalDekyi Yangchen Dolkar Gyatso

"Sikkim is safer for most lone lady travellers than other states. Knowing the authenticity of the homestay, researching and reviewing it, knowing how long the place has been open, and knowing who runs the homestay are all key points to consider when deciding to choose a homestay." In Sikkim, people are relatively more straightforward and have an innate sense of warmth and hospitality, she added.

Gyats feels that a homestay's "home away from home" vibe makes it preferable to a typical hotel. "Homestays are far less commercial and flexible than a hotel—because you don't get billed for every little thing," she stated.

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