Airbnb bookings in India doubled from 2019: Airbnb executive

Domestic bookings on Airbnb in India in the quarter ended June doubled compared to the same period in 2019 before the pandemic, Tara Bunch, Airbnb’s global head of operations, told ET in an interview.

The number of solo travelers in the country is above the global average, increasing by around 120% over the same period, Bunch said. As a result, the holiday home and apartment rental company is launching a new Hindi safety product for solo travelers for the country, she added.

“Revenue from non-urban hosts in India increased by 40% in the second quarter of this (calendar) year compared to the same period in 2019,” Bunch said. “Everything indicates that India is growing. We are investing here in terms of technical teams, operations teams, and we are very pleased with the incredible talents and capabilities that we have been able to develop and maintain during the pandemic.

She also said that a third of Airbnb hosts in the country are women.

Bunch said extended stays continue to be the fastest growing category globally for Airbnb as many businesses continue to operate under hybrid models. “We are following a hybrid model and allowing people to move up to 90 days out of the country,” she said. “As we develop talent in India, we believe it gives us an advantage that we still allow people to work from anywhere.”

According to internal Airbnb data, approximately 30% of domestic and international bookings between the second quarter of 2021 and the second quarter of 2022 were made by solo travelers from India.

The company said its in-app solo travel experience is designed to better support safe solo travel. When a solo guest books a private or shared room, they activate a “Specialized Embedded Experience” that provides the traveler with tips they may want to try. Hindi is the second language after English where this product has been extended. “It’s a product that helps solo travelers navigate and think about how to stay safe on the platform,” Bunch said. “It is focused on solo travelers who book private rooms or shared rooms. You will see safety tips for solo travelers. Things like protecting yourself in a bar. It also extracts booking details and you can share them with a friend or family member via WhatsApp or email. It builds on all the other things we have.

She said the company is making services like access to its 24/7 security line and local emergency services more prominent in the product for solo travelers. “Everything would be localized in Hindi for India. We are extending language support. We plan to expand into other languages,” she added.

Bunch said business remains “very strong” for the company and it is looking at issues such as “cleaning fees” and revamping prices for an Airbnb stay.

“Our teams are very busy. If you’ve been to airports lately, you’d know that a lot of people are traveling. As borders open, restrictions ease, people are excited to get out, connect and see places, and meet people in person again,” she said. “So business has been strong.”

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