Thailand, already a top tourist destination in Asia with approximately 30 million visitors as per recent data, is taking hosting to the next level.
Though still a grey area, the property rental business is thriving in the country.
In 2018, Thai women renting out their apartments, homes or condo units through Airbnb collectively earned 2.8 billion baht. This was a 45 per cent increase from 2017, according to statistics shared by the popular property sharing service. The number of female Airbnb hosts in Thailand also surged by 22 per cent in 2018.
Women comprise 53 per cent of Thailand’s Airbnb host community with an average yearly rental revenue of 78,000 baht.
A press release by Airbnb praised the “advent of technology” for opening up many opportunities for female entrepreneurs in the hospital industry. These women are passionate about “driving a creative and meaningful tourism industry."
Though Airbnb is considered illegal in Thailand, there has been light enforcement so far. Two condominium owners who rented out their units via Airbnb were convicted in January last year. They run their business without a licence, thereby violating the Hotels Act.
However, thousands of property owners earn extra income via Airbnb, which is expected to continue to thrive in a legal grey area alongside the likes of the ride-hailing service Grab -at least until authorities get around to updating local laws.
The online accommodation sharing giant continues to expand and offer new opportunities while simultaneously working with Thai authorities to address regulatory issues. Beyond home hosting, it is promoting Airbnb Experiences - handcrafted activities spearheaded by local experts who want to showcase the unique culture of their homeland.
"The rapid growth of Airbnb Experiences in Thailand has enabled more women to become entrepreneurs by sharing their passions and skills," the company said. "In Bangkok, women make up 60% of all Experience hosts on the platform."
In 2018 alone, women around the world earned the equivalent of 381 billion baht through the Airbnb platform, representing more than half of the global Airbnb community, said Mich Goh, head of public policy for Southeast Asia.
According to Ms Goh, the Experiences programme will expand beyond urban centres to suburban areas and other cities and provinces in Thailand.
She added: "From meeting Pranee, a home host in Saraburi, to hearing how Sa, an Experiences host from the Karen hilltribe in Chiang Mai, teaches tourists traditional weaving to provide financial support for her village, Airbnb is privileged to support women's empowerment through our platform."
Airbnb said its data also reflects the growing percentage of female hosts in both first and second-tier cities, where access to technology encourages more female participation in the tourism industry.
In a forum jointly hosted by Airbnb, chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (Thailand chapter), Jutamas Wisansing, said that when it comes to “showcasing Thailand's gastronomy scene to international travellers, or helping locals rediscover their own backyard through local arts and culture, [it is heartening] that women are stepping up as hospitality entrepreneurs and strengthening communities."
In cooperation with the Department of Local Administration at the Interior Ministry, Airbnb continues to digitise tourism.
Airbnb has collaborated with local officials, superhosts and leaders in the community since the partnership began in 2018. Such collaborations hope to train and equip Thai hosts with key skills such as digital marketing and hospitality.