Airbnb is having issues in a number of jurisdictions around its future. This is not news, it has been a pretty much constant state for the platform since its inception. As ever, the loudest issues are in New York where the group is currently getting litigious on the ass of those who would bring in registration.
So far, so priced into the IPO. But what remains interesting is how Airbnb tries to make friends with the different authorities around the world, where its tactics are in constant shift. And a function of what happens when you don’t have a clearly-defined place in the world.
One play we have got used to over the years is the Look How Much Good We Do report, which points to mortgages paid, contributions to local businesses by guests, taxes going into the coffers for the good of all mankind. The more ructions with a local authority, the more lovely reports. We think they call it PR.
Most recently, the group issued a release looking at how it had bought tourism to areas in the US where there were no hotels and, one suspects, limited chance of a souvenir shop. This ‘distributed travel’ meant that “with more than $10.5bn earned by US Hosts in areas with no hotels in 2022, Hosts and guests emerge as key drivers of economic activity in areas not served by traditional hospitality”. Hurrah probably!
The group has now dialled it up, signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, to promote India as “a most sought-after high potential tourism destination and shine a spotlight on its rich cultural heritage”.
As part of the agreement, the site will launch a ‘Soul of India’ microsite that showcases an array of heritage stays across the country.
Additionally, Airbnb will also offer support to Hosts in untapped tourist areas, assist them in promoting their homestays, build host capacity, and “foster a culture of responsible hosting”.
Of course they will, because the core of Airbnb’s issues is exactly the same as the core of the hotel sector’s: the endless search for pipeline.
Shri G. Kishan Reddy, Union Tourism Minister, Government of India, said: “This partnership will contribute to the growth of inbound tourism, create economic opportunities for local communities and position India uniquely on the global tourism map.”
Amanpreet Bajaj, General Manager – India, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan at Airbnb, said: “This MoU represents an important collaboration towards unlocking new economic and social opportunities through tourism in India while bolstering the Incredible India brand and bringing the richness of what India has to offer to even more international travellers.
“Airbnb has consistently placed Hosts and their empowerment at its core and is pleased to see the G20 countries, led by India, sharing the same commitment to equipping communities with the adequate skills and fostering responsible tourism practices.”
So again, one cannot help but applaud Airbnb for a canny move. With eyes on what’s going to happen with Chinese travellers when they are back up to their former strength, using one of the most well-known travel brands in the world to raise your profile is a smart move by India’s tourism types. And Airbnb brings its brand deeper into a country where it had been doing battle with other homestay groups as well as the likes of Oyo.
Of course, like most antics Airbnb gets up to, this is yet another case of something the hotel sector should also be getting into. But one step at a time.