Digital Nomads create an alternative to traditional hotels in India

02nd January 2024
Digital Nomads create  an alternative to traditional hotels in India
Workspace for Digital Nomads at NomadGao

By Anand Parthasarathy
January 2, 2024: The peak Covid years brought to young millennials in India – those born in the 1980s and 90s –a new awareness:  all they needed to continue earning a living was a laptop and a good Internet connection. And anywhere – not just at home.
The Digital Nomad was born – the location-independent  professional who could   meet the employer’s expectations from anywhere --  shared work spaces, coffee shops, food courts … and why not, from a villa on the beach?
The last option proved so attractive that  young workers in their lakhs  sought out an affordable  shack or villa or cottage with self-catering facilities  in a salubrious climate and    took it on rent for a month or two – or six. It was a compelling proposition: work to your own timetable, break off when you felt the urge and switch to holiday mode.
Property owners  fortunate enough to own suitable  unused space in popular destinations  from Kerala to Kullu,  put them up on rentals on sites like Airbnb, MakeMyTrip, TripAdvisor, Expedia etc and generated additional income. 
In fact India was being cited  by many of these global operators as a favourite destination for the global digital nomad. One of the reasons is the Indian  multi-entry e-tourist visa  with durations of 30 days, one year, and five years,  as long as the visitor exits and re-enters India every 90 days.
A  result of these developments  is the emergence of an alternative to traditional hotel—based holidays in India : the short term vacation rental.
A December 2023 study authored by Ronak Shah, Associate Vice President at Future Market Insights  states that  The global short term vacation rental market  value is expected to rise from US$ 1,35,258.3 million in 2024 to US$ 3,77,191.2 million by 2034.  
Specifically about India, the study finds that the short-term vacation rental market is anticipated to explode over the upcoming decade. The market is estimated to record a Compounded Annual Growth Rate or CAGR  of 15.70% through 2034. “Millennials and digital nomads find these accommodations highly appealing. This is because short-term vacation rentals offer flexible and indulging experiences, suited to their requirements.”.
Writes Ronak: “Additionally, there is an emerging trend of staycations, especially among working professionals, who seek to be at leisure during their vacation.”
She adds: “Market participants are investing in new technologies and properties to attract customers to their sites. Key players are projected to find significant opportunities in India and China to expand their reach and gain higher profits.”
Goa was one of the first states to  ride the short-stay rental  wave and hundreds of  heritage cottages and villas by the seaside  are listed for renting in the new year at rates that start at Rs 5000/day and can go up to Rs 20,000/day.  A good  wireless broadband Internet system and adequate backup power are prerequisites.
Kerala is another destination with a plethora of well-appointed short-stay options emerging.  Rentals tend to be cheaper than Goa  -- a  one bedroom fully furnished  cottage in Kochi with a functional kitchen and air conditioning, that can sleep 3 persons, is advertised  in Airbnb for around Rs 4000 / day.  (Photo above). One can see the attraction this holds  for family vacationers over  pricier hotels.
Some entrepreneurs cater more directly to digital nomads: Mayur Sontakke, operates co-working and co-living spaces in Anjuna, Goa and in  Dharamsala, Himachal  Pradesh, under the brand NomadGao. His clientele  includes many foreign visitors who   are ready to pay  $ 500  - 600 a month.
In what  is emerging as a new and   preferred holiday mode for many Indians, key players scramble to differentiate themselves by leveraging technology
MakeMyTrip  partnered with  Microsoft’s Azure  OpenAI, a ChatGPT-like interface  this year,  to  introduce voice-assisted booking in Indian languages.
Another Indian travel booking platform ixigo  introduced a conversational travel assistant -- PLAN by ixigo -- an intelligent trip planner built on OpenAI  which understands user preferences, offering them personalized recommendations, suggestions, and itineraries
As customers  look to optimise the value they seek from their vacation spends,  the traditional hospitality sector may face new challenges in 2024: Those who reinvent themselves will thrive, others may have to scramble to survive.

This has appeared in Swarajya