Rethinking Tourism: Welcoming the travel revolution

By Amanpreet Bajaj, General Manager for Southeast Asia, India, Hong Kong and Taiwan, Airbnb

The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a spotlight on tourism’s role as a key economic driver – not only for governments and global companies, but also MSMEs, individual entrepreneurs and everyday Malaysians.  

As travel continues to return and travelers dust off their passports and luggages with renewed vigor, it is more important now than ever to build a more resilient and inclusive tourism industry. This is especially true as everyday people around the world, including Malaysians, face rising costs of living.

In his official message for this year’s World Tourism Day, aptly themed ‘Rethinking Tourism’, UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili highlighted how COVID-19 accelerated the transformation of work, and presented new challenges and opportunities that can ensure more people benefit from tourism’s reopening.

Indeed, the pandemic has brought about a ‘travel revolution’ as remote work increasingly becomes a reality for many. More people are beginning to explore their newfound freedom to live and work from anywhere. In fact, recent analysis by PwC found that 90 percent of workers in Asia-Pacific who can work from home expect their jobs to be fully remote or hybrid a year from now.

At Airbnb, long-term stays of over 28 days continue to comprise our fastest-growing category by trip length, more than doubling from Q1 2019. We are encouraging the world to rethink travel, and we are also redesigning work life by encouraging our employees to work wherever best suits them: be it home, the office, or halfway round the world. 

As governments begin to embrace the rise of the remote worker and its hugely significant impact on the global travel industry, we’ve begun looking into how this phenomenon can contribute to a more inclusive travel that empowers local destinations. In our newly launched Airbnb Guide to Live and Work Anywhere, we outlined key recommendations to governments and destinations seeking to attract remote workers. These included creating remote worker visa programmes; introducing one-time relocation incentives; and ensuring local destinations are equipped with suitable travel accommodation, transportation and Internet connectivity. 

The ongoing travel resurgence is already creating new economic opportunities for communities in emerging and lesser known destinations. In fact, a recent Airbnb report revealed that Ipoh, Kuah, Semenyih and Port Dickson had emerged as trending destinations outside major cities for long-term stays in Q2 2022. Searches on Airbnb for Marang, Terengganu also almost doubled in Q2 2022, up from Q2 2019 pre-pandemic. Overall, typical earnings for Malaysian non-urban Airbnb Hosts surged by a third compared to Q2 2019.

With Malaysia’s recent launch of DE Rantau, a digital nomad focused initiative led by the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), Malaysia has joined the ranks of international countries seeking to attract digital nomads and remote workers. We warmly welcome the government’s efforts to encourage digital adoption and digital professional mobility, which will surely benefit those employed by the nation’s digital-led industries – tourism included.

The past two years have been a critical test in patience and learning. Significantly, it has presented us with an opportunity to reevaluate key priorities, rethink what the future can bring, and map a new and improved trajectory forward. 

This World Tourism Day, we celebrate and look forward to what lies ahead as the tourism industry ushers in a new era of travel: one that is more resilient and benefits more communities and destinations than ever before.