Our booking data shows that global travel is beginning to bounce back, and new research has identified a series of trends that will shape travel in the months to come. People want to travel locally with more affordable options and unique personal experiences, prioritising cleanliness and private spaces. From the overall industry standpoint, we believe, the industry will recover in a phased manner over a period. Domestic travel will recover faster than outbound. And in domestic tourism, for all the reasons that we know, city tours and day-drive tours will be the first to recover. States will look to ease rules, making local travel a shorter-term option. We believe that when it is safe, many will venture out again, and our hosts are more committed than ever to welcome guests back. Ninety two per cent of the hosts interviewed on our platform said that they plan to host as often as before, or more often, once the effects of the pandemic are less severe.
From May 17 to June 3, there were more nights booked for domestic travel on Airbnb globally than there were in the same time period in 2019. In India, 51 per cent of our business comprises domestic bookings (Indian who travel within the country). In addition, search trends and ‘wish lists’ by Indian Airbnb users indicate that long lockdowns have only piqued interest and aspirations to travel. Key domestic markets for Airbnb are Goa, New Delhi, Rajasthan, Mumbai, and Bangalore. But we are seeing a surge in searches for stay options in nearby cities, especially closer to metros, like Alibag, Lonavala, and Panchgani near Mumbai. Domestic tourism will see a big boost as international borders may take time to open up. India has a lot to offer domestically, and we look forward to working with state tourism boards to ensure that we are able to showcase amazing Indian locations and homes to our community. The most common words in recent Wish Lists’ by Airbnb users are ‘beach’ and ‘summer 2020’ and, in India, 70 per cent of visitors to the platform are searching with dates in the near future (starting July 2020).
In a recent survey commissioned by Airbnb, over half of the respondents said they will prefer to stay within a day’s drive for their first trip. We recently launched our ‘go near’ initiative to support economic growth through domestic travel in India. With our newly launched ‘nearby getaways’ on our platform, we are helping our guests navigate and book nearby experiences. While some might be keen to travel and venture out, sanitisation and cleanliness are going to be top priority. We have engaged the former US surgeon general, Dr Vivek Murthy, to help develop an industry standard-setting ‘enhanced cleaning protocol’ for hosts on Airbnb. The protocol is now available to hosts in the United States, and will be available to other ones in the weeks ahead.
The sector requires a brand-new vision and strategy involving partnership between stakeholders—public and private—to mitigate any challenges into opportunities. While recovery will be a long path, our host community and global Airbnb family eagerly anticipate the future of travel. It will take the combined strength of stakeholders— communities, governments, industry, and travelers—to contribute to the sector’s rapid revival and long-term health. We remain committed, now more than ever, to economically empower communities, drive travel to lesser-known places, and support environmentally sustainable travel. The ministry of tourism has set up a task force to address the issues, and the task force is helping in assessing the needs of the tourism sector at national and regional level, and coming out with effective recommendations for revival. We have seen encouraging signs of recovery. We believe, once tourism within other regions starts to recover, it will quickly become the catalyst for the revival of other affected sectors linked to the industry.
(As told to Jyotika Sood)
Amanpreet Bajaj, India Country Manager, Airbnb. (Views are personal)