Amanpreet Bajaj, Country Manager, Airbnb India, tells us about the ongoing #Live There campaign, the newly launched Trips offering, and plans to showcase unexplored locations in the country
Amanpreet Bajaj Country Manager, Airbnb India, tells us about the ongoing #Live There campaign, the newly launched Trips offering, and plans to showcase unexplored locations in the country
BY CHRISTINA MONIZ
Q] Tell us about the insight behind the “Live There” campaign.
We brought this campaign recently to India, and we are already seeing a good traction in terms of response. The basic idea behind this is that we want people to re-imagine the way they travel. The focus is on authentic, curated experiences that are possible only through a platform like Airbnb because we are a people powered community and a people powered platform. When you travel to a new place, we really don’t want you to be an outsider. Instead we want to make it possible to immerse yourself in the local life and culture. Airbnb makes these immersive, magical experiences possible.
Q] How are you amplifying the campaign? Are you planning to localize it for India?
This is a 360 degree marketing campaign across print, TV, outdoor and digital. We started with TV and we are also on digital and social media platforms to build and amplify the campaign. As far as localizing the campaign is concerned, if you think about it, travel is bringing cultures and people together. And if you look at our statistics, Indians on Airbnb have alone travelled to more than 160 countries thus far. Ours is a global platform, and the TVC reflects the kind of destinations Indians are travelling to such as LA and Paris. However, if you look at our outdoor, print and digital communication, you will see a more customized approach and more Indian travelers featured.
Q] Tell us a bit more about the Trips concept you recently launched
Trips is one of the most important milestones in the journey of Airbnb. Since last year we were only about accommodation. Now with the introduction of Trips, we offer you a way to experience a different side of the city by allowing you to immerse yourself in the community through the eyes of the locals. So for example, if you are a running enthusiast and if you want to experience running with a marathoner from Nigeria, you can do that with Airbnb Trips. You could have a 3 hour session with the marathoner or even a 3 day immersion trip in Nairobi. We are all about people. People across the world have different passion points and hobbies, and we are now giving them a platform to share those with other people in the community and earn money out of this. It basically opens a window to another person’s passion as well as to the city in a unique format.
Q] Who is your target traveler in India?
We are very proud in saying that our host as well as our guest community is very diverse. So, we have something for everyone on the platform. A lot of people use Airbnb for weekend getaways, staycations and even for business travel. Given that we are an internet platform, we want to appeal to the 230 million urban millennials in India. I think overall our concept appeals to a very wide audience from young solo travelers to large families.
Q] How do you ensure Indian hosts match global standards in terms of quality, accommodation and service?
I believe that hospitality is intrinsic to Indians and therefore Indian hosts are pretty much on par with those in other countries. When it comes to hospitality, Indians really believe in the saying Athithi Devo Bhava and do everything possible to make sure that the stay is comfortable for the guests. From a platform perspective, Airbnb has a ‘super hosts’ program that rewards our host community and motivates them. So, ‘super hosts’ are hosts who provide shining examples for other hosts by providing some great hospitality across multiple parameters. There is also a very unique element on our platform that allows hosts and guests to review each other after each stay. Additionally, we do a lot of local activities in multiple cities and bring hosts together to allow newer hosts to learn from experienced ones.
Q] What are the things that set Indian hosts apart from the rest?
The Indian hospitality culture is unlike any other, to begin with. Add to that the fact that we also have several unique properties on the platform. You can book mud houses, havelis or house boats. Another noteworthy thing is the kind of stories we hear from our hosts. Many of them are senior citizens who tell us that ever since they started hosting guests from different parts of the world, their life has changed and now they have friends in multiple countries. I also met a couple from Pune who told me that their supplementary income from hosting helps them pay the mortgage on their house. These stories are so local and unique and they define the hosting character of the nation.
Q] Which locations in India have been big for Airbnb and which locations do you believe have potential for growth?
The top tourist destinations always do better because more people want to travel there. From a platform perspective, Goa is the largest market in India with the most number of hosts. But markets like Pune, Ooty, Pondicherry, Bangalore, Mumbai and Hyderabad are also growing fast. India is a beautiful country and there is a lot that is still unexplored. We recently signed an MOU with the government of Andhra Pradesh to allow travelers to immerse themselves in their local handicraft based lifestyle. We have also signed a similar MOU in Gujarat since there are so many unexplored, beautiful places in the state.
Q] What are some of the notable travel trends you have seen among Indian travelers?
The Indian traveler is evolving into a more ’do it yourself’ traveler, and wants to know and discover and read about places himself. So, clearly the focus is becoming more around travel experiences and therefore a platform like Airbnb really becomes relevant to the new Indian traveler. Another observation is that Indians prefer travel as a couple or in groups. Nearly 40% choose to travel in pairs and about 35% prefer travelling in groups. We are also definitely seeing a higher number of staycations where people want to get away to a nice property just outside the city over the weekend. Most importantly, Indians are travelling a lot more making at least 2-3 trips every year. This is great news for everyone.
Q] How do you plan to rope in more hosts, especially in smaller markets?
For us each market is important. We will work to do anything that is needed to identify new locations for travel and create greater awareness for them. We do a lot of host and guest meet-ups in smaller towns to build awareness and to share experiences. We also look at multiple partnerships on the hosting side. We partnered with MagicBricks last year to encourage people to enlist their secondary houses for short term rentals. We also partnered with Furlenco to enable new hosts to get furniture on rent for their new homes. We will continue to explore new avenues that will benefit our host community.
Q] Can you cite any memorable anecdote from your experience with Airbnb?
I think for me the host stories are especially motivational. We have hosts from different parts of the country who join the platform for different reasons. They could be empty nesters hosting guests to deal with loneliness, young families looking for supplementary income or single mothers in need of income to raise their children. We have a number of women hosts on the platform who have been able to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams while hosting with Airbnb. These stories are always powerful and they make us very proud. Each host story is a blockbuster in my opinion.
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Feedback: Category: CMO Interview Volume No: 13 Issue No: 51
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