The milestone was hailed as Airbnb’s first official partnership with a government agency in Thailand, the company announced in a release issued today (July 7).
“Through the partnership, Airbnb and the Ministry of Interior’s DOLA will work together to train local provincial officials on hospitality, hosting and compliance standards; and onboard existing homestays onto Airbnb’s global platform,” said the release.
DOLA Director-General Suttipong Juljarern and Mike Orgill, Airbnb’s Director of Public Policy for Asia Pacific, jointly launched the partnership at Chulalongkorn University Alumni Association on Tuesday (July 3).
According to the release, as part of the partnership, Airbnb and the Ministry of Interior’s DOLA agree to:
• Conduct training sessions focused on sharing information about Airbnb, and how to use the platform to distribute tourism income to local communities across Thailand;
• Train officials on hospitality, hosting and compliance standards to raise the quality of local homestays;
• Equip officials with the digital literacy skills to help locals create and manage their own listings on the platform; and
• Build a local community of hosts in each province who can support and learn from each other.
The launch was followed by a country-first joint training workshop conducted by three Airbnb “Superhosts” and “Community Leaders”, and guest speakers from the Ministry of Interior’s Department of Provincial Administration and the Thai Immigration Bureau.
More than 100 Thai officials attended the workshop, including representatives from the Provincial Office for Local Administrations, and selected local administrative organisations in the tourism sector across 11 provinces, which were identified as Chiang Mai, Chonburi, Chiang Rai, Nakhon Ratchasima, Buriram, Ayutthaya, Petchaburi, Songkhla, Satun, Ubon Ratchathani and Sukhothai.
Phuket, Phang Nga and Krabi were not among the provinces represented.
“Airbnb is a global platform, and we have worked with governments around the world to help distribute tourism income to local communities in underserved areas,” Mr Orgill said.
“Through this partnership, we will empower the Muang Rong (secondary cities), the Tessabaan (municipalities), and the Tambon (subdistricts) to transform themselves into communities of local hospitality entrepreneurs, which are an integral part of Thailand’s booming tourism industry.
“This new generation of local tourism entrepreneurs is something envisioned by nations around the globe as a new driving force of tourism,” he said.
Mich Goh, Airbnb Head of Public Policy for Southeast Asia, added, “This is an exciting step forward for our community here in Thailand and a nod to the positive benefits that Airbnb is bringing to local tourism.
“We are committed to working with the Ministry of Interior’s DOLA to support local homestays across Thailand by empowering communities with important hospitality skills and connecting them to an international network of travellers, while promoting responsible and sustainable travel.
“By promoting digital inclusion and the effective use of our platform to attract inbound guests domestically and abroad, we will help drive economic growth in areas that have not traditionally benefited from tourism,” she said.
However, while the “partnership” was explained as a grand achievement in Thailand, the project is nigh identical to the “Tourism Entrepreneurship Accelerator Programme” Airbnb launched with the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) for Maharashtra State in India, as recently as June 8. (See here.)
Regardless, DOLA Director-General Mr Suttipong supported the move.
“The Department (DOLA) believes the partnership with Airbnb will strengthen communities across the country and encourage the formation of a comprehensive ecosystem for tourism management,” he said.
“Digital technology fosters real-time audiovisual communication and connections between local communities and guests around the world, and will surely encourage economic development in rural areas.
“This will help us achieve the United Nations’ and the Royal Thai Government’s goals to alleviate poverty, as this additional stream of revenue for locals means the improvement of their living standards in all respects.
“The training workshop will help promote development in local areas by sustainably building accommodation capacity, and upskilling and empowering officials to become professional community managers.
“It also prepares locals to be ready to host and welcome both Thai and foreign tourists to their communities. This will help them provide the best hospitality experience and further attract returning travellers,” Mr Suttipong added.
Also included in the release were comments from Saroth Oonwattananukool, who was described as an “Airbnb Superhost”.
“As a passionate Superhost, I love to meet guests and share my favourite tips so they can enjoy the local, authentic side of Thailand. Inspiring people is important to me, and I want my guests to feel inspired by Thai hospitality, culture and modern architecture,” he said.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity to share my knowledge with local officials, who can impart these hospitality standards and skills to homestay owners in their provinces,” he added.
While being touted as a “Superhost”, the release did not explain that Mr Saroth is the owner of the Pridi Hostel located on Sukhumvit 71 Rd, Soi Pridi 35, in Bangkok.
Pridi Hostel’s own website describes the venue as as a “Brand New Boutique Hostel”. However, it makes no mention of the number of rooms the hostel has – a critical aspect amid the crackdown on illegal hotels operating without a licence, which sparked the meeting between Airbnb and government officials on Tuesday.
Under the Hotel Act, accommodation owners with venues with five or more rooms that are rented out at daily rates must be registered as hotels and the site must comply with the required building regulations for hotels.
Airbnb in its release also made no mention on what action it would take in making sure venue owners advertising their accommodation venues on the Airbnb platform were complying with Thai law.
Instead, as made plain above, it will be teaching officials about compliance while training them how to post their own venues for rent on the Airbnb platform.
The issue came to a head in May when the Prachuap Khiri Khan Provincial Court ruled that two separate condo owners were guilty of breaching the Hotel Act by renting out their properties at daily or even weekly rates.
The bookings for the condos were made through Airbnb. (See story here.)