This Is How Picturesque Your Next Holiday In K’taka Can Look
Kandavara Heritage Home, listed on Explore, Life, Traveling is a labour of a love rooted in idyllic childhood memories. This nearly 100-year-old property nestled deep in the heart of rural Karnataka is Divya Hegde's fondest experiences come to life.
It was on one particularly memorable trip in 2013 to her grandmother's as Divya escaped from a stressful work season in Bangalore, that the idea of creating a soothing heritage experience for the weary urban professional was planted.
From the smell of freshly ground spices to the feel of richly textured wooden banisters and red oxide floors underfoot, the Kandavara experience of old has been lovingly brought alive.
Co-founder and CEO of a boutique digital marketing agency www.tip.agency, The Integrated Penguin (TIP), Divya has built a company from a two-person start-up into a thriving full-service agency.
Her work with clients both Indian and international has not only brought her understanding of catering to a wide palette of tastes to bear in setting up an authentic homestay experience, but also helped her bring travelers to coastal Karnataka to enjoy the impeccable hospitality that her own grandmother was famous for and fondly remembered by in the area.
Divya’s first inflection point was at Google in Hyderabad, though not in the usual way - working at a large corporation led her to the realisation that she wanted to start her own boutique venture, which eventually led to the founding of TIP and the Kandavara homestay.
Her most significant inflection point however was her acceptance to Northwestern University in Chicago shortly after, and the years she spent living and traveling in the US. She was catapulted into her first truly global community experience there and TIP now services clients based in India, France, U.S.A., Dubai, Indonesia and London.
Divya's subsequent return to Bangalore and her travel in India and especially to Kandavara in Mangalore brought home an urgency to preserve her ancestral home and her family’s legacy of hospitality.
Bringing guests into our home and seeing the look of astonishment on their face. When they say, “It’s even better than the pictures,” it motivates me to continue hosting guests and becoming superhost.
People love coastal cuisine and I think we’ve got it right at our homestay. Simple, yet flavorful and this is one of the other reasons why I choose to become a superhost, the amount of happiness that kori gassi and kane meen fry brings to our guests ;)
It’s really hard for a hotel to replicate a home cooked mangalorean meal!
Being a Superhost is all about making your guests feel at home in ways that are surprising and thoughtful, even when you don’t have to.
But being a Superhost isn’t just hugs and smiles. Being a Superhost is about running a real business. While doing this, you get to meet people from around the world and make new friends and it’s a great feeling. A lot of times, you get to host super hosts from other regions and it’s a unique opportunity to exchange notes and learn from each other. It’s also stressful because expectations are that high! And when you are have folks like ExploreLifeTravel who are constantly encouraging you, providing feedback and unique ways of collaboration and engagement with your guests, it helps with some of the pain points of being a host.
Experience of playing the perfect host
It’s been a steep learning curve as I’m not from a hospitality background. A homestay is a great start because guests don’t come into your home looking for over the top facilities, as long as you’ve got the basics right- at the end of the day, we all want to come back to a comfortable bed, clean sheets & towels, a nice meal. If the home is beautiful and the host is willing to personalize your stay, it’s a bonus!
Eating on that banana leaf!
We keep the experience as local and as homely as possible and our guests love it. They love the authentic banana leaf oota and evening chai in matkas rather than fancy cutlery. These are the little touches that delight our guests.
Although keeping things very simple and authentic was always the plan, I was a little skeptical because even homestays are now turning boutique and bordering on providing 5-star luxuries.
However, I realized soon enough with repeated feedback that the USP of this homestay is the beautiful architecture, peaceful surroundings and good food!
Challenges of hosting a traveller in a Heritage experiential stay
My biggest worry while hosting is whether or not the guest will take care not to damage the heritage home (it is nearly 100 years old!).
The travelers who have stayed at Kandavara Heritage home have been fantastic. As we are located in a village, there is a high level of curiosity as well.
We help our guests by hooking them up with local experiences- be it a trek to Agumbe ghats, a yoga session, resting by the lake or boating in the evenings which is 5 mins walk from the home or observing the ceremonies at the family temple nearby.
We also arrange for cabs to go Marwanthe beach which is about 20 minutes from the homestay. This also helps in boosting the local economy, which is a fantastic byproduct of the homestay culture!
Communication, Comfort & Cleanliness are key. Keep each trip personal and they’ll love it.
How to get the basics of hosting right?
Guests often book based on the quality of photos so make sure they're good. They'll also want to know about practical features provided in the home, like laundry & the location of your home to transport and tourist spots. Also, make sure to add in any special features that set your place apart.
My guests love the architecture of the homestay and it’s proximity to the lake and beaches. Make sure to keep info as accurate as possible.
Communication is key
Get to know your guests before they arrive so you can offer a personalised service and always respond promptly to enquiries as this will make your listing more appealing.
A few days before the booking touch base to confirm their flight or arrival times and pass on easy directions to your home, including public transport routes. When guests arrive I have a list of contact numbers ready for them along with the spare key.
Make it personal
Always greet the guests at the homestay as they arrive to let them in and show them around the property to make it easy for them, because I think there's nothing worst than getting off a long flight and having to work out the logistics of unlocking doors and familiarizing with a new space.
If it's an anniversary, I'll usually leave a bottle of wine or if we can arrange a BBQ night by the gazebo for a group of friends - depending on the weather!
Comfort is key
No matter how beautiful your home is, if your guest has an uncomfortable sleep, or can't adjust the temperature of your home, they're not going to give you a good rating. Always have clear instructions to the air-conditioning, and extra blankets on hand.
Keep it clean
If you want to keep costs down, clean it yourself, else have the staff clean it regularly. I would suggest dropping in on the property before the guests arrive to make sure everything is clean and in order.
There's nothing worse than showing up to a hotel room that's dirty so your home shouldn't be anything different. Also make sure there's things like soap/shampoos hand-washing liquid on hand.
As long as you are clear with what you are offering and responding to all of your guest’s queries, you are keeping the guest at ease from even before they visit your homestay. Let them know what to expect, keep your listing as specific as possible.
Growing popularity of experiential stays
Increasingly, travelers are forgoing large hotels in favor of smaller, independent homestays that are unique and reflect the local culture and style. And this kind of tourism is great for the industry.
Staying at a homestay in India is all about immersing yourself in India, rather skimming over it on the tourist trail.
Distinctive Accommodation, personalized service, local knowledge, unique activities and home cooked meals are just some of the advantages of opting for a homestay. Although this segment is fairly unstructured, home-stays are contributing to the growth of the tourism industry in a big way and the governments in states like Karnataka and Kerala recognize it.
The best part of homestay tourism is that it looks at managing local resources and strives to foster responsible tourist behavior. This includes respecting wildlife habitats and ecosystems, local cultures and traditional lifestyles, and sustainable forms of livelihood for people living in remote areas and communities.