Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, yesterday entered into a strategic partnership with the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) to establish 40 new avenues of experiential travel powered by people, while creating a platform for budding Sri Lankan entrepreneurs to build businesses around their hobbies, interests and passions as well as cultural sites to become successful.
Being the first Asian partnership to launch Airbnb Experiences, they intend to bring more people on to the Airbnb technology platform to facilitate individuals to become an ‘Experience Host’ and start earning a livelihood out of their passions or hobbies.
SLTDA Director General Upali Rathnayake and Airbnb Asia Pacific Strategic Partnerships Head Thao Nguyen inked the agreement in the presence of Telecommunications, Digital Infrastructure and Foreign Employment Minister Harin Fernando, SLTDA Chairman Kavan Ratnayake and Airbnb Country Manager India and Sri Lanka Amanpreet Bajaj.
“We are launching an aspirational future for the local people and community which is powered by the people. It benefits the local tourism industry and most importantly it creates entrepreneurial opportunities for all,” Airbnb Country Manager India and Sri Lanka Bajaj told journalists in Colombo.
He believes that Airbnb Experiences is an antidote to mass tourism, which enables travellers to experience a different and authentic side of the city through the lenses of the local people.
“Airbnb Experiences opens up the world, connects people and creates powerful cultural connections, which we believe is the magic in tourism. This is a story that is already becoming super successful around the world. We believe it is an opportunity which shouldn’t be missed. It is an opening to pursue your passion or interest while you earn money and create an impact in the social and local economy for this country,” he added.
According to him, some of their top hosts in more than 100 countries are making $ 100,000 a year by becoming an Airbnb experience host.
Bajaj also said that they were seeing that Sri Lanka was becoming a key trending destination on the Airbnb platform at present.
He asserted that social impact experiences were also being launched which involve local non-profit organisations working with Airbnb to develop experiences that will help the communities they serve and engage in meaningful social courses around the globe. Airbnb waives all fees and ensures that all proceeds go directly to the non-profit supported by each experience.
“It is a key priority for us as a company to promote healthy tourism. This is what we believe as sustainable and also inclusive of multiple communities of the world. The magic was, is and will always be in people,” he stated.
With SLTDA committing itself to develop locals for jobs in travel and tourism, Bajaj said Airbnb was proud to be a partner in that initiative and wanted to empower that through the launch of experiences.
SLTDA Chairman Kavan Ratnayake said the partnership with Airbnb fits well with Sri Lanka’s tourism strategic plan.
“We believe this partnership will raise us and take us towards the $ 7 b mark we have set out for 2020. We want to do this in a sustainable manner and we are not interested in doing mass tourism. We want to do the authentic diverse tourism and our value proposition is that we offer it in a very compact space,” he added.
Ratnayake also said that they had spoken to the Airbnb officials to ensure that all home stays listed under their platform be registered with the SLTDA, thereby it helps travellers to be assured of their safety and security of staying at a location which has the Government ‘pride mark’.
“One of the key things we are working on is the pride mark. We started this with the tuk-tuks and eating places. We will very soon bring it to the homestays and the experiences that we are talking about here,” he stated.
He believes Airbnb is the future of travel.
“We are excited to work with Airbnb to promote experiences in Sri Lanka and we are of the view that an engagement of this nature would be of great value to the tourism industry. We look forward to offering a high level of commitment to support Airbnb Experiences and using this opportunity to add value to the tourism experience that Sri Lanka offers,” Ratnayake said.
Telecommunications, Digital Infrastructure and Foreign Employment Minister Fernando said that Airbnb partnership with SLTDA would be a great stride in taking the country to the next level.
“In an era where digitisation is also the buzzword, a platform like Airbnb is a great opportunity for Sri Lanka and entrepreneurs to capitalise on,” he added.
Outlining that Sri Lanka was one of the most checked out destinations in the world, he said the country needed to be on the world map and the best way to do that was through platforms such as Airbnb.
Fernando also stressed that Airbnb would come in handy for Ella, within his electorate of Badulla, which he said was becoming a tourist hotspot in the country with 800 travellers visiting the city on a daily basis.
He said Ella was predicted to become another Mirissa but assured that under the guidance of the SLTDA no unfortunate events would take place.
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