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Taking a gamble with ‘bed n breakfast’ for Games

New Delhi, Sep 13 (Calcutta Tube) Delhi residents Ajay and Purnima Bansal saw a great entrepreneurial opportunity in the Incredible India Bed and Breakfast (B&B) Scheme for the Commonwealth Games. Opening up their home for tourists to stay in, they scripted a success story – though the idea hasn’t worked all that well for many others.

The Bansals host their guests, mostly foreigners, in a traditional way, giving them a slice of Indian family life and vibrant culture at what they have named BnB New Delhi, located in Maharani Bagh in south Delhi.

‘We have a website with photographs and reviews from travellers who have stayed here before,’ says Ajay Bansal.

The site proudly says it has been rated ‘excellent’ by 24 travellers, according to tripadvisor.com. A quick search reveals his B&B has found its place in a few travel websites.

Hospitality is what he owes his success to, and he says, ‘My wife and I are well-travelled and we have interacted with a lot of foreigners since we are in the export business. Every time we host a guest in our house, we make sure that we, as well as they, cherish the memories.’

But things didn’t go well for Madhumitha Deb and her husband, who, to begin with, thought it was a great idea.

For less than Rs.5,000 they could register their east Delhi home with the government as a B&B and make some money hosting the expected influx of guests for the Games. The excited couple spent a few thousand more refurbishing the guest bedroom and waited for the bookings to begin.

‘My husband and I are in the export business and we wanted to diversify into the hospitality industry,’ said Deb. ‘So we thought this could be ideal for us to test the waters.’

Two years later, not a single guest had booked the room. Disillusioned, the couple cancelled their B&B licence.

‘Maybe since our house was located in east Delhi, an area which is not considered as upmarket as south Delhi, I think nobody was interested,’ says Deb trying to understand why their venture failed.

Other B&B proprietors say the scheme can work but only if the hosts are prepared to make significant investments in the project.

‘The tourism department doesn’t help us in any way to promote our business. Any marketing has to be done by us,’ says Sudhir Trehan, who runs Essence, a B&B in Lajpat Nagar in south Delhi.

He spent close to Rs.15 lakh (Rs 1.5 million) to renovate the second floor of his house with six bedrooms, a common room and a kitchen, and hired staff to work for him.

Though his place is more of a guesthouse than a B&B, Trehan says this is the only way he can make some profit.

The Commonwealth scheme has many subsidies. ‘For example, electricity and cooking gas are all billed under domestic tariff. If I were to run a hotel, I would have to get a commercial gas connection which would cost me more,’ says Trehan.

Though Trehan doesn’t yet have any bookings for the Commonwealth Games, he is cashing in on Indian corporate clients to accommodate their employees when they travel for work.

Recent media reports have described the Bed and Breakfast scene in Delhi as ‘cold’ with not many bookings for the Games.

But Meera Dass, who runs Saubhag Bed and Breakfast in Rajinder Nagar, has a different story to tell. Her B&B is completely booked for the Games.

‘In fact, the bookings were done months ahead and most of my guests are parents whose children are performing in the Games. And many of the Bed and Breakfasts that I know of are also booked for the Games,’ she says.

Her success can also be attributed to the fact that her accommodation is ranked No.1 by travellers in the list of Bed and Breakfasts on tripadvisor.com.

Dass also has a website for her B&B which has information about her family, and about the house, with good quality photographs.

According to the new list on the government’s website, there are 265 registered B&Bs in different parts of Delhi, while there are another 95 registered in places like Gurgaon, Noida, all the way upto Rajasthan and Varanasi.

Those who had been running the Bed and Breakfast places before the government opened up the scheme are the ones who are booked for the Games.

The ministry of tourism, in a study, has estimated tourist arrivals during the Commonwealth Games at – 52,951 from India and 139,754 from abroad. The estimated number of accommodation required per day for these tourists – is 40,190.

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