Note: This piece is authored by Mich Goh, Head of Public Policy for Southeast Asia, Airbnb
Almost two years on since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s clear that travel may never be the same again. Driven by a shift toward increased flexibility, we’re seeing fundamental shifts in the way many people are thinking about travel and living — the lines between which are blurring. With this change comes an opportunity for both the private and public sectors to pause and reflect on how we can work together to harness these shifts for the benefit of communities throughout the Philippines.
Like other sectors in the Philippines, the travel industry has been irrevocably impacted by the pandemic. Tourism and hospitality contributed to almost a quarter of the Philippines’ Gross Domestic Product in 2019 but dipped sharply to 14.6 percent in 2020. The difference was felt most keenly in the loss of approximately two million travel and tourism jobs across the nation.
Yet as travel restrictions begin to lift across the Philippines, we see that the fundamental human desire to travel and connect remains undiminished. Filipinos are raring to make travel plans, and over 68 percent of new Airbnb Hosts who came onboard the platform in H1 this year comprised Gen Zs and Millennials who are keen to welcome guests into their homes.
This year’s World Tourism Day aptly spotlights “Tourism for Inclusive Growth,” and the urgent need to build a more inclusive, sustainable, and resilient tourism economy in the Philippines. One of the positives amid the pandemic lies in the opportunity to pause and reflect on how we can build back tourism for the better. How can we ensure the new era of travel is a win-win for travelers, communities, and economies? How can we work together and empower locals to better harness the power of travel, by sharing their unique hospitality and local culture? As a 21st-century company dedicated to serving all stakeholders, including the broader community, this is a cause we care very deeply about.
Firstly, we believe that driving long-term recovery and rebuilding tourism in an inclusive way requires breaking down barriers so that more people can become hospitality entrepreneurs. This also plays a critical role when it comes to showcasing local culture in an authentic way and ensuring communities can build resilient local economies. Airbnb was founded on the simple principle of enabling anyone to share their home, and more than four million people worldwide are doing just that today. In the Philippines, 57 percent of our Filipino Host community use their earnings to keep their homes and over half want to find more ways to host with us. Our team continues to work hard to support this continued economic empowerment, and in May this year, we launched a simplified 10-step process for anyone to become a Host.
Second, the social and economic benefits of travel must be shared more equitably within the tourism economy. Rebuilding tourism in local communities benefits everyday Filipinos, by encouraging guest spending with local businesses. Oxford Economics research revealed that Airbnb guests spent over US$ 930 million in the Philippines in 2019 — this represented 1.2 percent of the country’s total tourism spending that year, up from 0.2 percent in 2015. Expenditure included guest spending on accommodation run by locals, purchases from local providers such as restaurants, retail stores, and local transportation; which further spread the benefits of tourism and put money back into local pockets.
Third, inclusive tourism recovery needs to be underpinned by an innovative approach to regulation. We know from our partnerships with governments worldwide that good rules benefit our Hosts, guests, and their communities. Airbnb is committed to working hand-in-hand with the Philippine government to build a short-term rental regulatory framework that enables hospitality entrepreneurs to thrive and supports the country’s tourism development and income distribution goals.
Finally, all travel must start first and foremost with safety. Health and safety is one of Airbnb’s key priorities, and in June last year, we introduced the Enhanced Clean protocol, the first overarching standardized guidelines for cleaning and sanitization in the home sharing industry. Endorsed by the World Travel and Tourism Council, the protocol helps guide Hosts across the Philippines in providing safer and cleaner accommodation for guests.
The unprecedented COVID-19 crisis may have upended the status quo, but it has reminded us all of our fundamental need for belonging and connection. We believe the unique ability of travel to connect people, learn from each other, and benefit local entrepreneurs and communities remains unchanged. But there is a significant opportunity to rebuild tourism for the better — to drive a new form of travel that is more diverse, resilient, sustainable, and empowering for more people than ever before. Airbnb remains committed to working towards this new future of travel hand in hand with our community, the Philippine government, and partners in the public and private sectors.