Airbnb sets up emerging city scheme, starts with Buri Ram

Sports events like MotoGP have drawn a whole new market to Buri Ram province. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

Airbnb aims to penetrate more emerging cities in Thailand with a community destination campaign that started with local homestays in Buri Ram province during Thailand MotoGP 2018.

The world's leading home-sharing platform has enlisted Saraburi province as its new destination.

Mich Goh, head of public policy for Southeast Asia at Airbnb, said as more tourists embrace digital technology before, during and after travelling, they have indicated a preference for exploring less popular cities such as Hat Yai and Chiang Rai.

The company wants to support Thai communities tapping into digital tourism as Thailand remains a leader in global tourism, with the industry accounting for 21% of GDP last year.

She said Buri Ram is a destination for sports tourism, drawing enough visitors that home-sharing is necessary to supply sufficient accommodation.

This year's Thailand MotoGP, scheduled for Oct 4-6 in Buri Ram, has seen Airbnb booking in the province rise by 96% to 430 guests, with an average length of stay of three nights.

Some 27% of guests are Thais, with the top five foreign markets consisting of Australia, India, France, Britain and the US.

Ms Goh said a partnership with B-STAY in Buri Ram is Airbnb's first step and plans to promote Nong Saeng and Sao Hai districts in Saraburi province in the future because they are not far from Bangkok and provide an authentic local experience with farmland, food and a unique way of life.

She said the company met and provided information last week to Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paojinda about the possibility of legalising the home-sharing business in Thailand.

Khanchai Arram, executive director of B-STAY, the Buri Ram-based homestay provider, said it has 148 homestay members, up from 65 last year.

The partnership with Airbnb increases income for locals and creates value-added tourism products that serve demand, especially for independent travellers, he said.

The average income for locals in Buri Ram is 80,000 baht per year.

During big sporting events like Thailand MotoGP, which lasts three days, B-STAY members' income increases by 30-40%.

Participation in local activities such rice farming will be an option when events are not being held, said Mr Khanchai at a seminar titled "Sustainable Travel with Airbnb: Beyond Big Cities" held yesterday.

Ratthasart Korrasud, senior executive vice-president of the Digital Economy Promotion Agency, said at the same panel the fall of Thomas Cook is the latest case of digital disruption in the tourism sector.

The number of independent tourists who access online information to plan their trips reached 1.2 billion and will be 2 billion by 2030, according to the UN World Tourism Organization.

"Tour operators have to conduct business via online platforms and change their mindsets towards new technology," said Mr Ratthasart.