Outbreak spurs longer stays
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Outbreak spurs longer stays

According to Airbnb, connecting in an authentic way will drive grassroots tourism.
According to Airbnb, connecting in an authentic way will drive grassroots tourism.

San Francisco-based Airbnb, a home-sharing company, has seen the pandemic accelerate the growth of longer-term stay booking, while hyper-local bookings are projected to be a fast-growing service.

Eight of 10 Airbnb hosts now accept longer-term stays, and about half of Airbnb's active listings are providing discounts for one month or longer bookings, said Kum Hong Siew, regional director for Asia-Pacific at Airbnb.

Mr Siew told the Bangkok Post that one in every seven nights booked at an Airbnb was for a longer-term stay last year.

As the pandemic fades, the company expects the market for longer-term stays to expand further as people who have been working remotely from home realise they can work from anywhere and don't need to be tethered to a single city.

There's also growth in the share of bookings by guests travelling within home provinces. This trend has grown steadily over the past five years and rose by 53% last year.

Mr Siew said urban destinations made up the minority of travel on Airbnb as travel to listings away from big cities represented 54% of total bookings from Jan 1 to May 1.

In Thailand, the number of Airbnb guest arrivals visiting off-the-beaten-path destinations grew by 53% year-on-year.

"Domestic travel will lead Thailand's recovery," Mr Siew said. "Even before the pandemic, our business had been trending in this direction for several years."

The percentage of Airbnb bookings in destinations within a short driving distance from the origin (within 320km) has grown annually, representing 33% of total bookings in 2019, while hyper-local bookings (within 8km) grew 56%.

Mr Siew said the pandemic will trigger tourists to travel by car within 2-3 hours' drive from home. Starting from Bangkok, residents will take more trips to the Gulf Coast -- Chon Buri and Rayong -- and south to Hua Hin, while destinations such as Ayutthaya and Nakhon Ratchasima will also be popular.

At these destinations, families and groups will be looking for more control over where they stay. Private spaces with private kitchens for self-catering, private pools and the ability to wipe down and clean your own area will be chosen over busy spaces with hundreds of guests.

Mr Siew said a recent survey found that 92% of Airbnb hosts globally planned to host at least as often as before the pandemic once travel resumes.

Airbnb travellers to Thailand said 43% of their non-accommodation spending was in the neighbourhood of their accommodation. This knock-on effect to local businesses and communities supports grassroots tourism.

Throughout the pandemic, Airbnb created a US$250-million fund to support hosts hit by cancellations, and the Superhost Relief Fund totalled $17 million to support superhosts.

The global Frontline Stays initiative helps house 100,000 healthcare professionals, relief workers and first responders around the world.

Mr Siew said Airbnb is committed to re-energising Thailand's tourism after creating a positive economic benefit of over 40 billion baht to the country last year, an increase of 17% year-on-year, with an average daily guest spend of 3,291 baht.

"The only constant is change," he said. "Travel is not going back to the way things were, and the new normal we talk of today will evolve over time. With this change comes opportunity."

The company sees short-term rentals as an essential part of Thailand's tourism mix and a valuable driver of economic growth.

More than 25% of Airbnb guests to Thailand in 2019 chose Airbnb over other accommodation options because of the amenities, while more than 28% said staying local was the main reason.

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