(Yonhap Interview) Airbnb wants to add “hanok” as a category amid growing interest in K-culture from international travelers

SEOUL, Sept. 29 (Yonhap) — Airbnb Inc. may add traditional Korean homes known as “hanok” as a standalone booking option on its home rental platform, an executive said, amid popularity growing wave of Korean pop culture among international travellers.

In May, Airbnb made major improvements to its platform, including a revamp of its homepage and app search feature around what it calls “Airbnb Categories,” which sorts homes by style – like beach, mountain, and treehouse – instead of location. or dates.

Traditional Japanese inns known as ryokan and distinguished for their unique interiors and proximity to hot springs were added to Airbnb’s category list in the May update.

Catherine Powell, global head of accommodation at Airbnb, said traditional Korean houses, hanok, could be popular if offered as a self-catering accommodation option on Airbnb, as the Asian country becomes a preferred travel destination in a growing interest in Korean traditional and pop culture. .

“We know the Hanoks we have on the platform are very popular. We can’t confirm yet, but we would like it to be a category like we did with ryokan,” Powell said last week in a post. interview with Yonhap News Agency. on her first visit to Seoul since joining the company in 2020.

South Korea served as a “bright light” for Airbnb when operations in Asia were difficult during COVID-19, she said.

International customer searches for Korea increased by approximately 150% between the second quarter of 2021 and the same period of 2022. Domestic travel has exploded, with overnight stays booked in rural areas increasing by more than 180% between the second quarter of 2019 and the same period in 2022. 2022.

Following such a trend, Airbnb plans to expand its previous efforts with South Korean provincial governments and the Korea Tourism Organization to promote hanok stays.

It’s also Airbnb’s commitment to sustainability, she said, noting that global interest in Korean culture can generate real tourism dollars, especially in rural areas, which have them. most needed.

K-pop – which mainly includes songs and dances choreographed by groups of boys or girls – has gained traction not only in Asia, but also in Latin America, Europe and the United States in recent years.

K-pop and the wider Korean wave have resonated with young people around the world, bolstering South Korea’s image as a cool country home to K-pop phenomenon BTS and “Squid Game”, a South Korean phenom survival drama that became the first non-English television series won Outstanding Actor and Director in a Drama Series at the 74th Primetime Emmy Awards.

Powell said Airbnb will continue to make efforts to promote Korean popular culture, adding that Airbnb will offer more unique destinations related to wider Korean pop culture after his “BTS in the SOOP” mansion opened. in August. The house was featured on the reality show starring K-pop boy group BTS.

When asked what Airbnb’s future business goals in Korea will be, Powell said the company will focus on promoting “the economic empowerment opportunity of accommodation” as it has seen a rising trend of new hosts in Korea registering on Airbnb since the pandemic.

“Between last year and this year, we have seen a 40% increase in the number of new guests (in Korea). And I think that number will increase this year with the cost of living and inflation. We want so that they are aware of accommodation as an economic opportunity,” she said.

On his thoughts on post-pandemic travel trends, Powell said “flexibility” will remain an important factor even after reopenings, as the remote work culture brought on by the pandemic has permanently changed people’s perceptions of where and when they can travel.

“I think the extent to which people will remain flexible will depend on how the return to office work stabilizes. But people will add time to their weekends, or they can add a week to a holiday and work from distance for a week. So the flexibility is going to be there,” Powell said.

“I’m thrilled because there are so many opportunities here in South Korea. They talk about the K wave and you can see how people are engaged in the culture. So we will continue to do more with the culture pop and traditional culture.

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