October 24, 2019 / 11:09 AM / a month ago

Airbnb bets on women hosts, millennial travelers for growth in India

FILE PHOTO: The logos of Airbnb are displayed at an Airbnb event in Tokyo, Japan, June 14, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Home rental company Airbnb Inc is betting on women in India opening up their homes to travelers, especially millennials, to fuel its growth in the country, a senior company executive told Reuters.

India is one of Airbnb’s top three target markets over the long term and it needs to have a significant presence in the country, Chris Lehane, global head of public policy and communications, said in an interview in New Delhi.

“With India having the largest number of millennials, it will eventually have the largest population in the world, a fast growing middle class and will be a fast growing global economic player,” said Lehane, referring to those born between the mid 1980s and early 2000s.

While 55% of Airbnb’s hosts globally are women, in India that number is more than a third and is growing, said Lehane, adding that the company was focusing on women in India to give them an equal chance at participating in the economy.

While Lehane did not share details on growth expectations in the country, he said the company was encouraged by its performance so far - with listings growing 150% to 54,000 since 2016 and growth in the number of nights booked doubling.

The company’s growth in India has not been limited to the top cities or tourist destinations but is percolating down to smaller cities and even some rural towns, said Amanpreet Singh Bajaj, Airbnb’s country manager.

Bajaj said women in rural India have opened up their homes, taken lessons on hospitality and now welcome guests from all over the world, helping them earn a secondary livelihood.

Valued at $31 billion in its most recent private fundraising round, Airbnb said last month it planned to become a publicly listed company in 2020, marking it out as one of the biggest names considering a stock market float next year.

Reporting by Aditi Shah; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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