New Delhi: Home rental provider Airbnb Inc. said its listings in India more than doubled from a year earlier and claimed that the country has become one of its fastest growing markets in the world.

“We are seeing a lot of momentum in the Indian market and today we have 18,000 properties in about 100 different cities across India," said Nathan Blecharczyk, co-founder and chief technology officer of Airbnb.

“The Indian economy is growing quite fast and by 2020, it is expected that the Indian travel market is going to be worth $40 billion. India is a pretty big and exciting opportunity," he added.

The number of Indian listings, however, indicate that the country is still a relatively small market for the company, which has as many as 2 million listings across 190 countries. The company did not disclose the number of listings in its top markets and said that Europe as a whole has the maximum listings.

Airbnb claims to have hosted more than 80 million guests globally since its inception, including 500,000 Indians. It did not disclose how many people the company hosted in India, but said that travel on the platform in India has nearly tripled in the past year.

It claims that India is a popular destination for its travellers from the US, the UK and Australia. Goa, New Delhi and Mumbai are the top travel spots, it said, adding that there has been 184% growth in inbound travel to India. Outbound travel from India grew 185% to cities across the world, it said without disclosing exact numbers.

Founded in August 2008, the US company offers travellers alternative stay options in apartments, villas, houseboats and tree houses.

Homestays and bed-and-breakfast options have so far witnessed limited popularity in India. “In the whole notion of living at a stranger’s house, an element of trust and security has been lacking in the Indian market so far," said Chetan Kapoor, a research analyst at industry research firm Phocuswright Inc.

Experts say that these properties require a much larger amount of due diligence as compared to hotels.

However, the perception among travellers seems to be changing of late. Several companies, including online travel agencies and budget hotel accommodation aggregators, have entered the space to tap the young, backpacker category of travellers and families.

Online travel company Yatra and online aggregator of budget hotels Stayzilla launched homestays in September. Earlier this year, MakeMyTrip Ltd too said it will get into non-hotel alternatives such as dharamshalas, homestays and bed-and-breakfast establishments.

Besides incumbents, a handful of start-ups such as Deyor Rooms, Wudstay and The Hosteller offer travellers experiential homestays and short-stay packages.

According to a 28 April report in The Economic Times, the government is looking to ease rules to encourage homestays and tourism. Currently a homestay requires a licence from the state government, which is valid for two years and needs renewal thereafter. It also mandates the hosts to reside at the property being rented out.

Last month, Airbnb announced a strategic tie-up with the Times Group, the publisher of The Times of India and The Economic Times. As part of the initiative, the Times Group will promote Airbnb on its media platforms and invest an undisclosed amount in the firm.

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