As Indian tourists warm up to the idea of homestays, Airbnb is strengthening its offerings with services such as Experiences.
As Indian tourists warm up to the idea of homestays, Airbnb is strengthening its offerings with services such as Experiences. Amanpreet Bajaj of Airbnb India speaks to Shinmin Bali about the trends in travel, looking beyond tourist destinations, Airbnb for Work, and more. Edited excerpts:
What kind of growth is Airbnb seeing in India?
We are seeing significant growth in the number of listings, which is around 40,000 in India, growing at 115-120% y-o-y. The number of nights being booked by travellers is doubling y-o-y. Existing users are travelling more frequently. We had launched Experiences in Delhi first and then in Goa in 2016. We now offer over 100 ‘Experiences’ across the country. We are looking to move to the next level by tapping the offbeat markets. Our aim is to bring tourism dollars not just to the tourist destinations but also to Homes and offbeat places through Experiences.
What is your strategy for the quieter cities that are not so popular in the tourism circuit?
Our Homes business is now spread across 100 cities in India, not just in the big tourist destinations. As awareness for the brand increases, and more people understand the benefits of home sharing, there will be applications for Experiences in all parts of the country. In June 2017, we had signed an MOU with Maharashtra Tourism primarily to boost tourism and expand the network of homestays. This association allows us to collaborate with MTDC and identify the hidden gems across the state. This means going beyond tourist cities like Mumbai, Pune and Nashik, and bringing in more unique experiences to boost micro-entrepreneurship in those areas.
Also, we want to bring in very unique and intimate yoga retreats or meditation activities across India. From a passion perspective, food is a key area. We are developing food programmes — cooking classes, food trails, etc.
How do you curate different offerings in the tourist cities than competitors?
Almost all cities are growing at a significant scale but what we want is for more people to share local experiences with travellers. For example, there are corners of Goa that may be known for their heritage value, and a historian from the place could give travellers a tour with an insight into the place. If the experiences on offer appeal to the local audience, it is not just the tourists that are opting for it. For example, earlier this year, in association with Delhi Secret Shopper Club, we partnered with seven restaurants and offered curated ‘thali’ cuisines from various parts of India. We want to give
dining a social element.
What is the uptake of Airbnb for Work?
A lot of people are combining their work and leisure trips. Globally, seven lakh companies have their employees use Airbnb for corporate travel. We are seeing similar trends in India. Fifteen percent of all travel on Airbnb was for work last year. People are also using the platform for relocation as they try to get a sense of the neighbourhood in 14-20 days.
Does having Homes and Experiences together in a city spur conversions?
The local consumption of our app in those cities has increased. Yes, overall, it helps in people knowing more about Airbnb and experiencing our products. Experiences was launched for people to go beyond just the usual places they see and the usual people they meet on a trip. It would be difficult to attribute increase in conversions to Experiences alone. We are increasingly seeing people opt for Experiences in the same cities where they have booked Homes. We are also seeing more locals going for Experiences and sometimes multiple Experiences in one trip.
How does Airbnb plan to accommodate luxury and value listings on the same platform?
You will see more formats from us as awareness increases. Earlier this year, our CEO Brian Chesky spoke about having one billion Airbnb users by 2027. To that end, it is critical for us to make sure there is an Airbnb for everyone. For some travellers, budget could be a constraint and they would want to stay in a private room; others may want to indulge in a penthouse over a weekend in, say, Dubai. We want to ensure that the platform appeals to people across the spectrum.