Airbnb can play an important role in the COVID -19 crisis. This role is both in the Containment and the Recovery phases of these crises. It is suggested that this crisis has two distinct phases;
1 . The Containment phase, which should and is dealing with the immediate health challenges of the day, keeping people alive and healthy, by applying all lock-in and other measures. Most of the world destinations are still in this phase NOW.
2 . The Recovery phase, the preparations of which should guarantee not only dealing with the serious effects of the crisis on the economy and on jobs but, rather take us through the recovery into a more advanced form of growth, prosperity, and development. Most destinations are struggling with the preparations for this phase NOW.
The COVID-19 Crises
The Crises has taken its toll on our society, our economy, and our lives. It is important at the outset to establish the fact that, “the world after Corona will not be the same as the world before Corona. “
Most relevant here, however, is the fact that travel and tourism are now and will continue to be one of the most affected sectors and human activities by the crises. It will most likely be one of the last economic sectors and human activities to recover. There is no tourism without travel and travel has come to a complete halt today.
Although it will eventually bounce back stronger and healthier, contrary to many ultra optimistic minds, the recovery of travel and tourism will not be easy nor rapid. The world will remain hesitant and fearful of traveling for a while, especially from far away destinations. The question here is, how could Airbnb contribute to maintaining the dividends of this fantastic human activity called to travel and tourism for the benefit of all people of the world in the wake of the Corona crises?
Airbnb is, without doubt, the leader in short term rental and the so-called sharing economy in accommodation. It, therefore, feels a sense of social responsibility to assist local communities and people at certain destinations particularly those that it operates in.
This should not simply be done as a sense of corporate social responsibility for it also feeds into the direct interest of the business of Airbnb, which can only strive an in a healthy world of peace and harmony.
Airbnb also tends to build on the two pillars. One is the unique and special travel experience it bases its business model on and Two is the full use of the latest digital platform technology. Both of these are not only consistent with the most recent trends in travel and tourism but, also qualifies Airbnb to play a bigger role in reconstructing a more authentic and technology-dependent world that is emerging from the Corona Era.
How can Airbnb, therefore, play a bigger role in assisting destinations in both Containment and Recovery phases, to endure the Corona crises and come out of it stronger and healthier?
1 . Airbnb can assist in utilizing the special characteristics of the travel and tourism’s ability to support the other economic sectors and in turn supporting the overall economy of each and every country in all phases of Containment and Recovery. One good example, which I believe Airbnb is already partially doing, is contributing to the containment efforts of many destinations by providing accommodation to health workers, to individuals under quarantine and to workers helping in the containment activities in general. Other tourism activities could also be utilized such as transportation and food outlets.
2 . It has become clear that traditional far away markets will not come back quickly. Governments and destinations are now turning first to domestic tourism and then to regional tourism. As this changing trend will require major shifts in strategies and implementation plans and training, Airbnb can assist in helping to promote and realize this new trend in all possible ways, in its own strategy as well as directly assisting cities and destinations to turn this corner.
3 . We have to realize that this crises will be changing dramatically our ways of thinking and our ways of living, particularly with regards to the use of digital technology. The Crises has proved to us that we need and we can change many of our human habits to become remote, “from home”. We just have to think imaginatively, out of the box. A good example of this is what Greece has done through their project,“ Greece from home “. It’s a project in partnership with Google, producing a series of videos to get to know and understand the culture, nature, people. The video will show the beauty of Greece from home, without actually visiting. The purpose is to ignite the curiosity and interest of the potential future visitors.
4 . Digital technology will play a bigger role in several tourism activities, such as restaurants which will have to limit their activities to only delivery services until we end social distancing and the full return to normalcy, which does not seem to be coming very soon. Airbnb can help in the restructuring of these businesses as well as training its staff, especially these located in communities that it operates in. Similar action could also apply to conferences, meetings, celebrations, concerts, and special events. All could be designed to be done from home. We only need to think out of the box, imaginatively. However, businesses will have to be restructured and staff will have to be retrained.
5 . The most important challenge, however, will be to preserve jobs. Employment will, without doubt, be the most pressing task for a decent life and a healthy economy. Airbnb can help in providing temporary work in its local rentals, for workers, cleaners and other skilled staff within the community, until the situation normalizes again.
6 . Strengthening the health of the local economy, particularly that of other tourism activities is not only the right thing to do, it’s also, as indicated earlier, in the direct interest of Airbnb and the communities it operates in. Airbnb can reach out, therefore, and extend a helping hand to other tourism partners, hotels, taxis, tour operators and retailers such as the handcrafts and the likes. Offering the use of their platform services and other kinds of package assistance could be some of the good gestures Airbnb can embark on.
These are but some suggestions, the point is not to follow or apply them to the point, but rather to embark on a healthy discussion on what can be done and think it with imaginative open minds, out of the box approach. Keeping in mind that whatever is done is not only done because it is the right thing to do, but also because it is the right business move for Airbnb.
These thoughts are provided by Dr. Taleb Rifai, former UNWTO Secretary-General and David Scowsill, former CEO of the WTTC.
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