Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last nine years, you’ll no doubt have heard of Airbnb – the mother of all hospitality startups who’ve taken the world by storm with their web-based marketplace which connects those who need somewhere to lay their head for a night or longer with a global network of hosts offering shared digs, private rooms or entire homes for rent.
Many countries have been quick to embrace the accommodation giant but as with other so-called “disruptive technologies” like Uber, Airbnb in Thailand has its critics. Most vocally, hoteliers who fear their business is being threatened…yet Airbnb represents only a tiny fraction of the short-stay lodgings in Chiang Mai compared to the 34,500+ hotel rooms here and, on price, mostly compete at the low-end of the market. Then there’s building management who allege leasing or renting for anything less than 30 days is prohibited by law…but, while Airbnb hosts are legally obliged to comply with a building’s own rules and regulations (or else face a fine), no Thai Act covers services like Airbnb so legislation’s wide open to interpretation. Not to mention the authorities who warn that the transience of Airbnb’s guests poses a greater risk to national security…though the same can also be said of more conventional forms of short-stay accommodation.
Up to now, Chiang Mai has escaped the scale of crackdown on short-term lets as happened last year for all registered condominiums on Phuket island and, so far as we know, no Airbnb host or guest nationwide has ever been fined let alone detained. Still, given the growing resistance, are we witnessing the beginning of the end for Airbnb in Chiang Mai? Going on recent Airdna data and analytics, the number of active listings in Chiang Mai between September 2015 and June 2017 has grown consistently month-on-month from 1085 to 3782; a meteoric rise of almost 250%. At the same time, occupancy rates have remained steady and other than a predictable high throughout the peak months of November to February, demand for Airbnb is much less seasonally affected than that of hotels.
Which begs the question why is Airbnb going from strength to strength in Chiang Mai? Could it be, for example, the opportunity for property owners (especially everyday Thai folk) to earn some extra cash on an otherwise unused space; or that it often offers a more affordable, more culturally immersive and more personal alternative to hotels for holidaying visitors; or that it helps boost the local economy by providing supply flexibility during popular periods such as Songkran or Christmas. In any case, we don’t expect anyone will be performing the last rites on Airbnb in Chiang Mai any time soon!
What are your own experiences using Airbnb in Chiang Mai either as a host or a guest? Do you think any of the various accusations levelled against Airbnb in Thailand are justified or even true? Have you ever been challenged by staff at any of the city’s condos for leasing or renting daily or weekly? We’re dying to hear your reactions on the subject so please do leave us a comment below!