Going forward, women hosts are expected to play a big role in reviving tourism, says Airbnb’s Global Head of Hosting, Catherine Powell.
Growing up in rural Gujarat, Vali Ben could never have imagined that one day she would be running her own business as a hospitality micro-entrepreneur. Although not formally educated, Vali was nonetheless determined to support herself and her family. Today, she is a leader at the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), empowering underprivileged women in her community; and an Airbnb host educating visitors on village life. Vali is proud to share the impact that these opportunities have had on her and other women in her village—which has an organic eco-tourism centre, and a community radio studio that helps SEWA women produce radio programmes for the community.
Annie Jyrwa made a lifelong commitment to supporting the development of rural communities in her home state, Meghalaya. As an Airbnb host, she shares traditional and cultural stories associated with local communities and places and curates memorable experiences for hundreds of guests who travel to Shillong. During the pandemic, Jyrwa stood tall as a leader in her community, helping draft COVID-19 safety protocols for Airbnb guests, as well as for local hospitality businesses for when lockdown restrictions were eased. These included distancing, deep-cleaning, and the use of electronic transactions. She sees tourism, through hospitality entrepreneurship and skill development, as playing a key role in the regeneration of her community. With the vaccination underway, and travellers likely to return, she is also keen to see hosting revive in earnest, in turn providing economic opportunities for local families like hers.
These are just some of the stories of inspiring women on Airbnb. They have blazed a trail in their communities and shown extraordinary resilience in the face of unprecedented challenges, including when the pandemic brought travel to a standstill. These women have listed properties on Airbnb to earn primary or supplementary incomes to provide for their families, and—in some cases—turned hosting into a career, driven by a passion to share experiences with their guests that they have enjoyed themselves.
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Airbnb has always been a community, powered by women. We estimate that 55 per cent of our four million hosts globally (more than two million hosts) are women and that our women hosts have accounted for over USD 600 million (roughly INR 43.67 crore) in earnings since the pandemic struck. This shows just how many women were able to leverage hosting as a financial lifeline at a time when economic burdens and sacrifices fell disproportionately on their shoulders.
These women are also the future of travel, which will be regenerative and community-led. A recent survey by YouGov showed that Indians are growing conscious of inclusive travel and that 94 per cent of them would opt for travelling sustainably closer to remote communities and nature. Further, 85 per cent would like to stay in unique accommodations, the kind offered by Airbnb’s enterprising women hosts, when they travel next. So, evidently, demand is on the upswing.
The impact of creating opportunities for women hosts goes beyond the hosts and their families alone. Sustainable travel can accelerate tourism recovery and create value for other local micro-entrepreneurs and businesses. According to The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), the homestay sector has a significant employment multiplier effect and helps empower women economically. It found that irrespective of ownership status, women manage most of the operations in homestays.
A separate report by Oxford Economics highlights this multiplier effect. The report stated that Airbnb contributed over USD 320 million (roughly INR 23.24 crore) to India’s gross domestic product and supported close to 50,000 local jobs in 2019. This includes contributions by Airbnb’s women hosts, who currently make up more than 30 per cent of India’s host community. There is enormous headroom for this number to grow and for more women to begin earning and hosting through Airbnb Homes and Experiences.
Inspiring hosts like Jyrwa and pioneers like Vali show us how hosting can not only help ease the burden but can also promote community development in remote places and under challenging circumstances. This is why we [Airbnb] have partnered with organisations like SEWA and DEF to train more than 15,000 Indian women to reap the economic benefits of hosting, and to recognise their dreams of becoming travel entrepreneurs.