MANILA -- Airbnb has rolled out more than 100 upgrades on its platform as it adapts to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global travel industry.
Co-founder Nate Blecharczyk, who is also the chief strategy officer and chairman of Airbnb China, shared more details about their latest move in a recent virtual press conference with members of the Philippine media.
He said they have been "refining and improving" their service as they expect a "huge, pent-up demand for travel" among Filipinos after a year of isolation due to quarantine restrictions.
One of the new key features introduced by Airbnb is Flexible Search, which gives users more options in terms of dates, listings, and destinations.
Blecharczyk said this removes the hassle of having to search for different combinations of dates, trying to look at how places change, and which listings are available.
"You can instead say something more general. You can say that you want to travel for one week over the next three months, or perhaps one weekend in the month of August," he said.
"Instead of specifying exactly where you want to go, you can say that you want to find an island to stay on. Or you want a boat, and it will show you places in the region that meet that criteria," he added.
Aside from this, Airbnb is also making it easier for hosts to sign up with the platform by shortening the registration process. Blecharczyk believes this is an important upgrade as it allows "ordinary people to participate in the industry of tourism and showcase what the local culture has to offer."
"We found that hosts who signed up in the first four months of this year, 50% of them received their first booking within four days of joining the platform. So there is incredible demand, and we expect that to only grow as travel rebounds," he said.
Other improved features that were launched on Airbnb include a dedicated support team for "superhosts" and community leaders, as well as seven host clubs in the country (Metro Manila, Cebu, Baguio, Rizal, Western Visayas, Lapu-Lapu, and Quezon) to allow them to connect with each other on the platform.
In a pre-recorded speech that was shown during the virtual press conference, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat admitted that despite the vaccine rollout, the effects of the pandemic on travel "will continue to be felt for quite some time."
Citing the UN World Tourism Organization, she said the Asia Pacific region still has the highest level of travel restrictions in place.
But she remains optimistic, saying that the Philippines has "prepared for this eventuality."
"From the earliest days of the pandemic, we have stated that our recovery will be driven by reviving domestic tourism. Fortunately for the Philippines, we have had a historically robust domestic travel industry," she said.
"In 2019, we recorded 110 million domestic trips and significantly, revenues generated from domestic tourism accounted for the lion's share of 10.8% of tourism's 12.7% contribution to the country's gross domestic product," she added. "To bring back the demand for local tourism, we must prioritize the issues of health and safety."