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Airbnb will be making “aggressive investments” in emerging markets like China and India after seeing a huge spike in both number of guests and listings in these countries in 2018 over 2017.
The homesharing platform attributes last year’s 131 percent growth in guests in China, and 65 percent in India, to a surge in domestic travel in these markets. What’s more, the countries are attracting growing numbers of international travelers.
“In 2019, we will double our marketing investment in India to drive awareness of Airbnb across the country and reach millions of potential guests,” said Siew Kum Hong, regional director of Airbnb Asia-Pacific, giving an example of an aggressive push.
“We are also working to integrate more local payment methods [in India] by the end of this year,” he added.
Airbnb co-founder and chief strategy officer Nathan Blecharchzyk was in New Delhi over the weekend to launch a partnership with the Digital Empowerment Foundation to provide hospitality skills training to 15,000 potential women host entrepreneurs.
DOMESTIC MARKET WITH MILLENNIALS
Three years ago, Chinese travelers formed 66 percent of Airbnb’s guests in China. Last year, they were the vast majority (91 percent).
In India, 78 percent of its guests last year were Indian travelers, compared with 53 percent in 2015.
Airbnb’s head of communications Asia-Pacific, Jake Wilczynski, declined to reveal the absolute number of guests it hosted in China and India last year. But he said China is now Airbnb’s top destination market in Asia-Pacific.
Not only is domestic travel ballooning in both countries, they are home to huge numbers of millennials (from 400 million to 410 million), the pillar of Airbnb’s bookers. Roughly 60 percent of all guests who booked on Airbnb between 2008 and 2016 were millennials. More than 40 percent of all guests from India last year were people under 30 years old, it said.
As more locals use Airbnb when they travel in their backyards, the familiarity with the brand seems to have knock-on effects. Airbnb claimed that outbound numbers from China grew 80 percent last year, and from India, 65 percent.
Listings grew 106 percent in China and 52 percent in India.
“There are now more than one million listings in Asia-Pacific. We have a goal to bring one billion users onto our platform in the next 10 years, and emerging markets like China and India — the new centers of influence in global tourism — will be the engines of our growth as we work to meet that goal,” said Siew.
If all goes well, by 2030, 40 percent of the one billion users, or 400 million, will be from emerging markets in Asia-Pacific, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.
WILL ALL GO WELL?
Ten years is a long time and who knows what will happen when hospitality keeps on converging, one of Skift’s Travel Megatrends 2019.
In the immediate term, Airbnb faces plenty of competition in China from rival Tujia and other players trying to get a slice of the market. One such is Vancouver-based Cozystay, a vacation rental platform serving Chinese travelers worldwide. In January it acquired Oak Properties, adding to its portfolio 300 properties that are “non-hotels,” with cleaning and butler services, in Chinese cities such as Taiyuan, Tianjin, and Suzhou.
Cozystay CEO Galen Cheng said, “China has a huge amount of housing, and 22 percent of those properties are vacant, which means that the option of listing those properties as vacation rentals is a good way for the owner to earn on their property investment.”
Which is why Airbnb should also count Oyo as a competitor in both China and India, especially now that the king of budget accommodation has entered the home rental sector with Oyo Living and recently completed its $1 billion financing round with an investment of $100 million by Chinese ridehailing company, Didi Chuxing.
In India, the Taj Hotels recently launched Ama Trails and Stays, with plans to scale the product to the first 100 units before the end of 2020.
Siew isn’t worried, saying Airbnb would continue to focus on growing and supporting the communities in China and India.
In China, where it is known as Aibiying, it has integrated Chinese payment methods like Alipay and login through WeChat; launched an Airbnb Host Academy; and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with at least 10 governments and community organizations.
There are now around 300 employees, including a locally based team of engineers, in Airbnb’s major office in Beijing who “are working to build a local product that meets the needs of China users,” Siew said.
In India, it has a partnership with AxisRooms to enable small hotels and home stays to seamlessly list rooms on Airbnb. Similar to China, it has signed multiple partnerships with state governments to promote tourism, including the governments of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh and the North East Tourism Development Council.