Mumbai: San Francisco-headquartered home-sharing company Airbnb Inc. is looking to scale up its partnerships with state tourism boards and government bodies in India and bring homestays in untapped locations on its global platform, a top company executive said. In the nearly three years of its presence in India, Airbnb has signed memorandums of understanding with the tourism departments of Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Earlier this year, the company also partnered with several government agencies in the North-East, including the North Eastern Council (NEC) and North East Tourism Development Council (NETDC), in order to create awareness around homestays in the region.

“Government partnerships have been one of the key foundational pieces for our brand in India... We want to scale up our presence and go deeper in these states. We are also looking (for more partnerships) with other states," said Amanpreet Bajaj, country manager, Airbnb India.

He said the company plans to enhance its awareness and skill development programmes conducted along with its existing partners apart from signing new ones.

“Our MoUs with the governments and creating more awareness around homestays is critical for our success," he said.

Through partnerships with the government, Airbnb conducts workshops on homestays and skill development programmes on hospitality, particularly in the rural areas where there are few hotel chains.

Bajaj said partnering with the government and tourism departments would help create the right ecosystem for homestays.

“The idea is to create a homestay ecosystem, bring more homestays into the global platform, conduct multiple workshops to skill people around hospitality and share best practices from across the world in terms of how homestays operate," Bajai said.

According to Bajaj, homestay listings on Airbnb site in India has grown 100% annually in the last two years.

At present, around 40,000 homes are listed spanning more than 100 cities in India. Goa, with around 6,200 listings, is its biggest market in the country.

Bajaj said the company’s focus is to take the Airbnb brand deeper into rural areas.

For instance, in partnership with Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation Ltd, the company is conducting awareness programmes around homestays as a pilot project in places such as Sindhudurg, a district in Maharashtra, and other tourist attractions like Ellora Caves.

“There are some underserved locations which are equally beautiful. We want to bring them into our global platform," Bajaj said.

The company also plans to expand its skilling programmes conducted along with Ahmedabad-based Self Employed Women’s Association (Sewa) and expand in other parts of the country as well.

“With Sewa, we provide training mostly in hospitality to women in some of rural areas around Ahmedabad. The pilot has been hugely successful. Now, our effort is to scale up programmes to another level," he said.

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