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Across the land: Is Airbnb taking a slice of Phuket hotels’ profits?



PHUKET: For those not so active in the online community, Airbnb may sound completely alien, and you may well ask what they are selling. According to San Francisco-based Airbnb, it is a trusted community marketplace for people to go online and list, discover, and book unique accommodation around the world, using a computer, mobile phone, or tablet. And, whether you own an apartment, villa, or castle, you can also use Airbnb to rent it out for a night, a week, or any length of time.

The listing of a property is free, although Airbnb takes three per cent commission off every booking from the property owner or host (as defined by Airbnb), and between six and 12 per cent from the guests. The host can then promote their property on the website by uploading as many photographs with detailed descriptions as they wish. The site also allows the potential guests to get to know their host by asking them questions directly online and via Skype. Guests are able to access a calendar of the property to check for availability, as well as rates over the requested periods. A detailed search function includes services such as maids, wireless internet, cable TV, swimming pool and bed configurations.

Airbnb started out as an alternative for budget travellers, but today boasts 1.5 million listings of rental accommodation in 34,000 cities and 190 countries. Airbnb is currently very popular in Phuket due to high hotel and resort rates, so the accommodation offered by the website is a good alternative to these.

An interesting feature of Airbnb is that guests can offer reviews of the properties that they stayed in and hosts can also offer reviews of the guests, enabling potential guests to read reviews of the property as well as their hosts before booking. Potential guests get a better understanding of the property from the view of another guest who has stayed there, and the hosts are able to assess if the guests are good clients who will not destroy their property.

Property owners who like to actively rent out their property and meet people enjoy the flexibility that Airbnb provides to do just that. Property owners who do not have the time or ability to rent out their property on their own, or through Airbnb, can enlist the assistance of real estate agents to source rental clients, and also a management company to assist in managing the property including cleaning, maintenance, and checking in and out clients.

With the growing followers of Airbnb, it is no wonder that the hotels are starting to feel the impact on their bookings. However, properties rented out for less than 30 days in Thailand through Airbnb may actually be in violation of the Hotel Act as a hotel license is required. At the moment it is not clear if Airbnb in Thailand violates any law and until then Airbnb will no doubt continue to thrive.

Amy Koh is the sales manager of Engel & Voelkers Phuket. To contact Amy or for more information, visit

— Amy Koh


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