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How to find âhidden gemsâ in local travel this summer
DOT Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat had a video message about the key importance of domestic travel in our tourism recovery.
STAR/ File

How to find ‘hidden gems’ in local travel this summer

THE X-PAT FILES - Scott Garceau (The Philippine Star) - June 5, 2021 - 12:00am

Summer’s here, the lockdown is partially lifted, so what’s the hottest travel destination for Filipinos who have been trapped inside their homes for over a year?

The answer? “Anywhere but here.”

That’s right. According to Airbnb co-founder Nate Blecharczyk, who’s been studying travel trends in the Philippines before and after the pandemic lockdown, “Actually, we’re finding that people don't care where they go. What they really want is an experience — they want to do something memorable, something fun, and if they can do that nearby, all the better.”

Airbnb co-founder Nate Blecharczyk walks us through the updates to their booking service.

He notes that more people are now seeking interesting accommodations through Airbnb, such as staying in a treehouse (something Blecharczyk memorably did once in Indonesia), or staying close or a beach, or on a boat, or even sleeping in a castle.

“Airbnb has always had really neat listings on the site, all these hidden gems, but they weren’t always easy to find. So our Flexible Destinations feature is meant to really highlight the fact that Airbnb has boats and islands and tree houses and villas, and you can start by just saying that — not even entering a destination — and you’ll start to see things in your immediate vicinity that inspire you and give you ideas.”

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky

Flexible Destinations is one of the 100-plus added features that Airbnb has included in its Airbnb 2021 Release, enhancements that give Pinoy guests more flexibility in pricing, dates and destinations, and has whittled the process of becoming a Host down to 10 simple steps.

The fact that people are less specific about where they travel domestically, and more concerned about the quality of their experience, is part of Airbnb’s takeaway from a recent YouGov survey on Filipino travel habits.

Let Airbnb assist you in crafting your travel plans, your way.

The YouGov survey also found that:

• Filipinos view bonding with family as the top reason for domestic travel. Sixty percent of Filipinos cite “family vacations” as their primary incentive to travel in 2021.

• Airbnb use is increasing here, with a survey of Filipino guests and Hosts showing that approximately 62 percent of travelers stayed in an Airbnb listing with their family in 2020, while more than 58 percent said an Airbnb stay was a more affordable choice.

Flexible Destinations lets Airbnb help you search for interesting stays and “hidden gems.”

• Hosting an Airbnb is one way for Filipinos to gain extra income as we recover from the COVID economic downturn. The same Airbnb survey found that 57 percent of Hosts earned enough through hosting to stay in their homes, and over half said they want to find more ways to host with Airbnb.

“From the earliest days of recovery, we’ve said the travel industry will be restarted by domestic tourism,” DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat reminded us during our Zoom session with Blecharczyk. Following that lead, Airbnb has found key shifts in what Filipinos are really looking for in travel during these summer months.

A faster checkout process is at your fingertips.Airbnb launched its “Become a Host in 10 Steps” feature to help more people learn how to join the Airbnb network.

According to their “Report on Travel and Living,” the lines between our home space, our workspace, and our travel expectations are now blurring together. People now want experiences that mirror and enhance their life situations. Many have learned to work from home, and this option is often translatable anywhere. Moreover, people want longer vacations away from home. Right now, it’s not even about a destination so much as a new and desired experience.

“We are seeing three fundamental shifts in travel as people become less tethered and more flexible,” said Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO of Airbnb. “People can travel anytime, they are traveling to more places and they are staying longer. The lines between travel, living and working are blurring and we are upgrading our service to make it easier for people to integrate travel into their lives, and for more people to become Hosts.”

Flexibility comes through in the new Flexible Dates feature, which allows guests to book within wider time periods, for greater variety of options. The Flexible Matching search option lets Airbnb include stay destinations that may be slightly above your budget — say, P3,200 per night instead of P3,000 — to expand your viewing choices. And the Flexible Destination option helps you explore interesting housing features you might want to experience — regardless of the local destination.

Of course, health and safety are key concerns as we recover from the pandemic. Blecharczyk notes that “enhanced cleaning protocols” have been added to Airbnb listings as well. “One of the programs we rolled out was training for our hosts on enhanced cleaning, and hosts that completed this received the certification, so guests can know when they're browsing that a host has completed a higher level of training, and they can search by this filter. This allows guests to find an accommodation that they're more comfortable with.”

Airbnb has also made it easier to become a Host. Blecharczyk says that, over the past 14 years, Airbnb has helped generate $1 billion in revenue for the Philippine economy through travel spending, which includes accommodations, shopping and dining out. Now, with over 39,000 listings in the Philippines that have added 161,000 jobs (with women making up 50 percent of those positions), Airbnb wants to keep growing. They’ve narrowed the Hosting process down to 10 steps, with “computer-vision deep-learning models” to automatically arrange hosting photos based on their guest appeal and “smart text suggestions” to help Hosts craft the best title and description for their listing. They’ve also increased the number of local Host Clubs — networks of passionate Hosts who share valuable tips and support on how to make your Airbnb listing work — to now include Cebu, Baguio, Metro Manila, Rizal, Western Visayas, Lapu Lapu and Quezon. And for the first quarter of 2021, Airbnb reports 50 percent of new Host listings received a reservation request within four days of activation.

Other added features on the app and website include a faster checkout process (reduced number of steps for new guests to confirm their first reservation), an arrival guide before check-in (easy access to directions, door codes, Wifi, etc.), updated reviews, and clearer cancellations for both guests and Hosts.

So there are a lot more reasons to travel local this summer. Getting out of the house — and maybe into your desired treehouse getaway somewhere — has never been easier.

* * *

Visit http://news.airbnb.com/philippines to learn more about bookings and hosting.

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