This is a story excerpt. The full feature will appear in the July/August issue of Dot Property Magazine.
Nearly 11 million guests utilised Airbnb to book rooms in Asia (excluding Australia and New Zealand) last year and the firm recorded an astonishing 177 percent growth in the region. Malaysia and Thailand proved to be particularly popular with inbound travellers. A total of 700,000 people stayed in Malaysia last year using Airbnb while Thailand welcomed 774,000 inbound guests via the service.
Obviously, experiences play a big role in attracting visitors to use Airbnb. Each country has unique hospitality traditions people want to experience and Airbnb is able to seamlessly connect hosts with guests interested in the character and personality of the places they visit. This idea is what gets users interested in Airbnb, but it is localisation and technology that fuels the service.
“Localisation has also been an integral contributor to the success story of Southeast Asia. Be it payment methods, translation of languages and localised marketing campaigns, every country is different and we want to help tell that authentic local story,” Robin Kwok, Country Manager of Southeast Asia, Hong Kong & Taiwan, explains. “Additionally, technology plays an integral role for travellers in Southeast Asia with the region’s online travel population at 39 million across Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. Our mobile and desktop application is localised to language and payment methods.”
Airbnb wants to bring travellers truly authentic experiences
Until recently, Airbnb has been all about homes, letting travellers see cities through the eyes of a local, by staying in their homes and experiencing an authentic side to a local neighbourhood. That’s all changed with the launch of Trips – an enhanced product – which offers guests not just Homes, but also authentic local Experiences and insider Guidebooks all in one place, allowing travellers to immerse themselves completely during every aspect of their trip. Experiences – of which there are now 800 live across over 20 cities – are handcrafted activities led by passionate, local experts which offer unprecedented access to communities and places you would never otherwise come across.
“We want to make this process seamless and simple, and make sure that the trip itself is memorable, authentic and unique. That’s why Trips is such an important milestone for us; we’re taking that first step to move Airbnb beyond the concept of home sharing, with Experiences and Places now helping travellers see the true character of a city, through the people who live there,” Kwok says.
And Airbnb isn’t stopping with Trips. As travelling evolves, both in Southeast Asia and internationally, it wants to find new ways to simplify how plans are made.
“Our ultimate goal is to take this even further, and for people to be able to research, plan and book every aspect of their trip through the Airbnb app, becoming an end-to-end hospitality solution,” Kwok proclaims. “At the moment, people have to go to lots of different places to research and book different elements of their trip – flights, accommodation, what to do when they reach their destination.”
Whether it’s young people wanting to meet travellers from around the world and show off the best of their city, families with spare space who want to earn additional income to help pay the bills, or senior hosts with time to spare in their retirement, Airbnb offers benefits to people of all ages and backgrounds. Through connecting people from around the world by breaking down barriers and helping them experience the world in a whole new way, it’s clear that Airbnb is doing what it set out to do: make travel magical again, and help people belong anywhere.
Solving legal confusion
One of the main issues Airbnb faced upon entering Southeast Asia was legality. Similar to other tech-based companies like Uber, most countries in the region had no rules or regulations to protect or ban the service. Instead, hotel or property laws were used to categorise Airbnb, which created confusion as to its legal status in markets like Thailand.
“Many of the laws regulating home sharing around the world were drafted long before the arrival of the internet and, just like every new innovation, it can take time to adjust and catch up to the pace of change,” Kwok says. “We recognise that every city is unique and has its own set of challenges and priorities. What works in Tokyo may not work in Singapore, and what suits Singapore might not be right for Bangkok.”
Airbnb has been diligent in its efforts to dispel this confusion and has reached out to governments directly to help clarify any misconceptions. The company has already reached agreements with policymakers in more than 275 jurisdictions around the world to ensure users are able to use the service hassle free.