Prime Minister Narendra Modi has time and again called for promotion of tourism in the country, and also urged citizens to open up their homes as homestays in remote areas that do not have infrastructure for tourists. In his Independence Day speech this year, he also said Indians should visit local destinations within the country.
“So all these segments for us, which are basically Indians travelling abroad, Indians traveling within India or, foreigners coming to India and wanting to experience the culture, are growing our prospects. So today, we have almost 54,000 listings in almost 100 plus cities in India. So, it’s not only those three, four or five, tourist towns, but literally, it’s going deeper and deeper,” said Lehane.
The San Francisco-based start-up, founded in 2008 by roommates based on the idea of renting out space within an existing house or living space, was last valued at $31 billion in September 2017. The firm has said it plans to go public next year, and is currently considered one of the few start-ups with a sustainable business model.
However, the recent debacle of shared-office rental space start-up WeWork, which was forced to delay its initial public offering (IPO) after potential investors questioned a $47 billion valuation, has put a question mark on the general enthusiasm around highly-valued start-ups.
“I certainly can’t speak for other start-ups because I think everyone could speak for themselves. And, I also think that all these different companies
really do fundamentally have different economic models. What I can say about the Airbnb model is that, we've been able to achieve the growth we’ve had because we really focused on the fundamentals,” Lehane said.
In India, Airbnb has signed a host of agreements with state governments to promote local culture and encourage people to introduce travelers and tourists to their regions.
Lehane said the regulatory environment in India was conducive to the travel and tourism sector. “We have a responsibility to work to make sure the platform is working as well as meeting the specific needs of a particular country and typically even down to a particular community level. And so, we’ve worked over the last couple years to put in place more than 500 regulatory partnerships around the world in big cities or urban markets, as well as in small towns of Maharashtra,” he added.
On Tuesday, it announced a memorandum of understanding with the department of tourism of Nagaland, as part of which it will work with local communities and promote prominent events like the Hornbill Festival.