Passion maybe isn’t the first word that springs to mind when thinking about an automated digital room booking platform, but the reality is that recent Airbnb data shows there are something like 2,000 Airbnb hosts in Thailand who work in the creative ‘industry’; artists, designers, musicians and so on, who finance their passion for creative expression by the typically mundane ‘business’ of renting rooms to Airbnb travellers.
The unconventional appeals to these young creative entrepreneurs and Airbnb seems to fit their bill; they’re comfortable with, and embrace, digital platforms to help support themselves, finance their passions and, in some cases, showcase their work.
Most of them share their unused living space through Airbnb Homes. Others share their passions and craftsmanship by hosting Airbnb Experiences, handcrafted activities for small groups of guests. They generate revenue, while potentially building a following for their creative work.
But isn’t all this illegal? Yes and no. If you own units in a condo and rent them (whether through Airbnb or not), yes you’re breaking the law – a law whose teeth, it seems, are not exactly long and sharp; the applicable law provides for a maximum fine of 20,000 baht and a daily fine not exceeding 10,000 baht a day for as long as the violation continues. In two recent landmark court cases in Hua Hin, the fine actually applied was 5,000 baht, with the daily fine reduced to a negligible 100 baht a day. A slap on the wrist; almost as if to say, “Go away and carry on as before – but don’t get caught!”
Aside from condos, the situation is less clear. According to Thailand’s Department of Provincial Authority, existing laws allow private properties to operate as small tourist accommodations – or homestays. It seems that, as long as it’s your own home, it’s not a hotel; there’s no legal burden on homeowners as long as they register themselves as homestays.
However, to be sure of their legal status, homeowners who wish to rent out their spare rooms are advised to register with the Department of Local Administration (DLA), an agency 100 percent behind the concept of homestay as a means to help develop ‘rural’ tourism.
Indeed, last year Airbnb announced what it called a ‘partnership’ with the DLA to promote local entrepreneurship. According to Mich Goh, Airbnb head of public policy for Southeast Asia, this was the first official Airbnb partnership with Thai authorities, to be followed later in 2018 by the more obviously significant deal with the Thailand Boutique Accommodation Trade Association (TBAA). Airbnb claims to be the first travel platform in Thailand to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the TBAA.
Through this partnership, Airbnb and the TBAA will bring Thailand’s boutique hotels onto Airbnb’s global platform and connect them to its international network of travellers. Sounds super...
Which brings us conveniently to creative Airbnb host, Ananda Chalardcharoen and her Mustang Nero Hotel on Bangkok’s Sukhumvit soi 46, a short walk from the Phra Khanong BTS (skytrain) station. Ananda transitioned from Airbnb traveller to host to boutique hotel owner.
As the images on these pages suggest, she has a background in fashion design. Each of her hotel’s ten rooms is intricately decorated and named after an animal, from ‘The Zebra Song’ to ‘Black Bird’ and ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’.
“The Mustang Nero Hotel is one-of-a-kind. I’ve put a lot of effort into the design and décor to ensure our guests have a truly unique stay, and at the same time I hope to showcase a creative side of Thailand to my guests,” Ananda tells us. “Airbnb is the primary online platform we use for bookings. I feel like we’ve grown together – Airbnb has been instrumental in helping my hotel reach customers and grow as a business.”
The hotel offers guests a mini green oasis with lush foliage artfully planted throughout the hotel. Having grown up in the Phra Khanong area, Ananda shares local insights and knowledge with her guests through a self-curated local guidebook – that includes her tips and secrets to the neighbourhood in Thai, English and Chinese.
To round off our peek into the world of Airbnb, let’s flashback 10 years to when they first burst upon the accommodation scene as a ‘disrupter’ in the mode of Uber. Now, though, with these government and trade association ‘partnerships’, don’t they sound the very essence of ‘establishment’?
If you love disruption, there are others in the market place, not so much on the tip of everyone’s tongue, but maybe just a little less cosy with the bogeymen.
Try Tripping.com, HomeToGo, FlipKey, HomeAway, VRBO, HouseTrip, VayStays, VacayHero – and doubtless a bunch more that I haven’t heard of yet…