Airbnb has launched the Office of Healthy Tourism – an initiative to drive local, authentic, and sustainable tourism in countries and cities around the globe.

Continuing its mission to change the landscape of travel, Airbnb has launched the Office of Healthy Tourism and a new Tourism Advisory Board which comprises of global travel industry leaders. Through partnerships, programmes, and events, Airbnb will empower small businesses and local residents, while supporting environment-friendly travel habits.

Regarding equality in travel and tourism, Chris Lehane, head of global policy said: “With travel and tourism growing faster than most of the rest of economy, it is critical that as many people as possible are benefiting – and right now not all tourism is created equal. To democratize the benefits of travel, Airbnb offers a healthy alternative to the mass travel that has plagued cities for decades.”

Yoshino Cedar House, nestled in a small town in the mountains of Nara, Japan

Already starting Airbnb’s healthy tourism initiatives last year, co-founder and chief product officer, Joe Gebbia, opened the Yoshino Cedar House – a landmark listing, located in a small town that was slowly disappearing due to an ageing population, low birth rate, and young people leaving the area. Since the house was opened, it had hosted hundreds of guests from 32 countries, and 70 jobs have been created for its residents.

The Office of Healthy Tourism will focus on ‘rural generation’ just like this story. From small villages in Italy to the countryside in China, Airbnb plans on bringing economic benefits and pushing its efforts to a higher level.

“Airbnb is providing the type of travel that is best for destinations, residents, and travellers alike”

Lehane added: “Airbnb supports tourism that is local, authentic, diverse, inclusive and sustainable. Through the meaningful income earned by the mosaic that is our global community of hosts; our ability to promote tourism to places that need it the most; and the inherent sustainable benefits of hosting, Airbnb is providing the type of travel that is best for destinations, residents, and travellers alike.”

Civita di Bagnoregio, a hilltop village in central Italy, photo by Piotr Niepsuj

Airbnb also helps communities by scaling accommodations for big events. One such example is the recent Winter Games in South Korea, where 15,000 guests used Airbnb to attend the event – the equivalent of adding around 7,500 hotel rooms. Hosts in the region earned over US$2.3 million, keeping 97% of what they charged, ensuring the stay of money in the country with the local residents in the area.

In another project to promote healthy tourism, Airbnb will partner with the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business to host the Africa Travel Summit this coming September.

Airbnb’s Tourism Advisory Board

As the tourism industry grows, promoting a healthy and sustainable tourism becomes increasingly important. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the travel industry supports 313 million jobs and generates 10% of the world’s GDP. Airbnb’s Tourism Advisory Board includes:

  • David Scowsill, chief executive of EON Reality Inc. and former president and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council
  • Taleb Rifai, the former secretary general of the United Nations World Tourism Organization
  • Rosette Rugamba, managing director of Songa Africa and Amakoro Lodge and former director general of Rwanda Tourism
  • Professor Hon Bob Carr, the former foreign affairs minister for Australia and former premier of New South Wales

“We are incredibly proud to have some of the foremost leaders in the travel industry”

Chris Lehane added: “We are incredibly proud to have some of the foremost leaders in the travel industry joining our Tourism Advisory Board. These are all leaders of impeccable credentials who have worked to promote healthy tourism. With members from four different continents, we look forward to getting their perspectives on solutions to over tourism and to tap their expertise to promote and drive healthy tourism around the world.”

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