[Startup Bharat] Bhopal-based Bistar Hostels has taken an unconventional route to promote local tourism
Having worked in the hospitality industry for over five years with various chains, Shaurya Sehgal realised that the tourism industry across India was looking only at monetary gains and often lacked hospitality, especially for those looking for backpacking.
With a mission to provide hospitality and promote local tourism in Bhopal, Shaurya started Bistar Hostels in October 2019.
With a desire to increase tourism in an unconventional way, the startup runs a hostel facility and is also creating awareness about the location by promoting its existing values. Bistar also promotes slow travel, which involves travelling for a prolonged period of time at a slow pace, allowing the tourist to get an authentic and cultural experience.
“With a growing millennial and younger population, the cultural gap or lack of awareness seems to affect the choice of tourism towards places. For example, tourists and youngsters going to the mountains and beaches rather than visiting places of history and architecture,” adds Shaurya.
Born in Bhopal, Shaurya says he wants people to be aware of what the city holds. He feels there is a lot of history and magnificent architecture in and around Bhopal that people should know about.
“Bhopal has always been associated with the Bhopal gas tragedy. But Bhopal happens to be lot more,” he says.
What it offers?
Bistar Hostel has different types of rooms available, including the female dormitory, mixed dorms, and private suites. The room rates are priced between Rs 599 and Rs 1,799, including breakfast and beverages.
However, apart from the indoor hospitality services, the team offers other services like taking its customers around the city. With three people working on the brand and three others for the housekeeping, the startup also offers a customised itinerary to its customers.
“We provide many travel options - soaking up art and culture in the town, exploring the markets, or getting some fresh air. We take our customers to places such as Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary and Ginnorgarh Fort that are lesser known to people. Apart from accommodation, we offer an entire range of hospitality for guests and working professionals,” adds Shaurya.
According to the team, the startup’s uniqueness lies in its focus on tourism development and providing a cultural and community focussed accommodation.
Located in a 60-year-old house besides the upper lake in Bhopal, Bistar claims to offer a well-catered stay in informal surroundings. The hostel, which is centrally located between the old and new city, is said to provide easy accessibility to nearby tourist locations.
One can book Bistar Hostel through its own website as well via listed platforms like Airbnb, Booking.com, and Hostelworld.
The travel market
A TechSci Research report states that the country’s travel and tourism market stood at $56 billion in 2017, and is projected to grow at a CAGR of over 7.5 percent to reach $86 billion by 2023.
Bistar Hostels competes with the likes of startups like Zostel, GoStops, Hosteller, Moustache and other hostels or homestays / budget accommodations.
Shaurya says, “From October 2019 till February 2020 end, we hosted over 430 travellers, which includes college student groups and individuals from mainly Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Pune. We were also able to attract foreign tourists.”
The coronavirus pandemic, however, has had a huge blow to the travel and tourism industry. Bistar hostels too had to shut down its operations for a few months, but is now ready to re-open this month.
Started with an initial investment Rs 5-7 lakh and an additional angel investment later of about Rs 6.55 lakh, the Bistar team used the pandemic time to brainstorm and introduce new facilities for travellers such cultural dinners, coworking space, etc.
In the five months prior to COVID, the startup managed to see 30-39 percent growth each month. It also generated a total profit of about Rs 9 lakh during the period.
“Since our staff is small and to the bare minimum, we were able to suffice during the pandemic and were able to dispense our usual fixed payments, as we had generated enough profits earlier. With that being said, we also kept the property afloat during the pandemic,” Shaurya added.
In future, the startup plans to expand by joining hands with travel-tech entrepreneurs and local communities across the country by helping them with building a sustainable business.
Edited by Megha Reddy