Amanpreet Bajaj, General Manager for Airbnb India, South East Asia and Hong Kong, touts India to be one of the fastest-growing markets for Airbnb in the world. Bajaj spoke with businessline on the heels of chief executive Brian Chesky LA announcement to expand Airbnb’s larger gimmicky listings into an exclusive category “Icons”. 

In the past few years, the short term rental marketplace has brought houses with particular relevance in the cultural zeitgeist onto its platform for guests to experience and enjoy. This includes the iconic Barbie Malibu Dreamhouse, the real-life Home Alone house. Post the May 2 announcement, 11 such “Icons” will be opened across the world including the summer vacation home of Bollywood actress Janhvi Kapoor in Chennai which is the only “Icon” in the Asia Pacific region.

Airbnb’s strategy to open these aspirational experiences comes at the time when the company has been dealing with bad press from homeowners listing their properties on the short term rental website. In an interview with businessline Bajaj counters that India is poised for growth in both the listing category and on the customer front as moneyed GenZ and Millennials travel in search for experiences. Excerpt


How will the “Icon” listings work? Will they be priced in a manner commensurate to the novelty of the home?

These listings have been largely made to encourage engagement between customers and the application. So their price will be less than $100 and in some cases, free as well. We will need an input and based on that input, we will decide how these guest tickets will be distributed. For this year, there will be 4,000 guest tickets made available across 35 countries. As of now, there are 11 “Icons” listed on the application. 


Travel is a core part of discretionary spending for young people and India has the largest millennial population in the world. What promise does the India market hold for Airbnb?

At the moment, we are focused on creating awareness about the benefits of Airbnb.  We want people to understand that they have unique opportunities and options when it comes to travel. In the last few years, we have made many updates to the platform, which are newer tools and features.


What does India contributes in terms of revenues?

India is one of fastest growing emerging markets for Airbnb. So we are really focused on driving growth here. India’s economic growth is driving up discretionary spending which is ultimately going to push people to travel more. A lot more people, specifically from a younger demographic are engaging with travel in a novel way and I think that demographic dividend will pay for us. It is a phenomenon not just for the metros but for tier-2, tier-3 cities in India. There is innate curiosity to connect to experience new cultures,  cities countries.  Our platform becomes a platform of choice because there’s an Airbnb at every price point.


Globally, Airbnb has received regulatory pushback.  Is there a danger of similarly running afoul with the Indian government here?

We have a very positive relationship with regulators in India and endeavour to align with their objectives. In fact, you know, I won’t talk global numbers or even in India for example, Goa is one of the top cities. It has a very clear regulation in terms of what licenses you’re required to take to start hosting on the platform. We work closely because we have an MOU with the State government and it acts like a great feedback channel. 


How has travel changed post pandemic in India? What are the trends that are here to stay?

Long term vacations in different locations are here to stay. Work from home, or remote work is a trend which has opened permanently after the pandemic. Spiritual travel is also becoming more popular amongst Indians of all demographics.