Airbnb My Guest

accommodation - Vietnam: Aug. 29, 2017

When Airbnb first appeared elsewhere in 2008, it created a new alternative for travellers seeking a nice, personalised home in non-touristy parts of the city they were visiting.

However, the idea of home-sharing came with concerns, mainly from homeowners who weren’t too sure if it was a good idea. After all, not everyone is comfortable having a stranger in their home. Here in Vietnam, things took a while to warm up but by 2016, the number of listings in Ho Chi Minh City alone tripled from the previous year with up to 3,500 listings across the city. So, how did that happen?

A Natural Extension to a Local Concept

Thi Nguyen, who runs a few listings of her own in Ho Chi Minh City, sees Airbnb as a natural extension to the Vietnamese homestay concept. “It's an opportunity to showcase our living and cultural abode to our visitors,” she says.

“So what we give is more than just a room for the night. It’s an experience which you can't get in most hotels.”

airbnb viet nam

Originally from Hanoi, Thi moved to Saigon eight years ago and runs her own events company. Needing funds to feed her passion for travel, she opened up her apartment for rent and she’s never looked back since. She currently has 11 listings on the site.

A Fresh Tourism Industry with Potential

“Vietnam’s tourism industry is very fresh compared to most other countries in Asia, which brings about both opportunities and challenges,” says Thi.

This sentiment is reflected by Hue-born Tai Phan, who spent the last few years working and studying in both the United States and Vietnam, specialising in finance and real estate investment before relocating to Da Nang where he decided to start his Airbnb venture.

airbnb viet nam

“I was back in Vietnam consulting for some investors and had a house with empty rooms,” he says. “I used Airbnb before and liked it, hence I wanted to experiment with hosting part-time. Thousands of guests and many properties later, I’m still enjoying this ‘ongoing’ experiment as if it was my first week doing it.”

Selling the Experience

People like Thi and Tai represent the archetypical modern business entrepreneurs of Vietnam by taking full advantage of an existing online model to provide a service.

Both of them also strongly believe in the importance of not being dodgy, by establishing a credible online presence in the form of well-taken photos and descriptions of their listings, and going the extra mile by giving local recommendations on places to visit and things to do.

airbnb viet nam

Guidebooks often give you recommendations that are tourist-friendly but may be slightly pricier, so you will never get to know about that particular com tam stall down your street which the locals swear is the best in Vietnam.

The Perfect Mix

According to Forbes Magazine, one of the main reasons why the Airbnb model is working so well in Vietnam, and especially in Ho Chi Minh City, is because it conveniently incorporates a perfect mix of Vietnamese culture in the form of sharing and entrepreneurship, which is a fast-rising trend among the Gen-Y and Millennial demographics in Vietnam.

However, infrastructural issues such as power outages and water shortages are also major issues among guests, although some hosts like Thi and Tai have their respective solutions.

Thi ensures that all plumbing, electricity and air-conditioning equipment are constantly maintained and replaced.

airbnb viet nam

Tai ensures that he has contacts for electricians and contractors who can respond within an hour, but if that doesn’t work, “You can explain to your guests sincerely about these issues in a friendly way and they would understand,” he says.

The Future of the Sharing Economy

Tai believes he can further expand his enterprise by recruiting good people.

“The objective is to create a hospitality group that can help travellers maximise their time during their stay and give good suggestions as to where to go and what to do.”

airbnb viet nam

Just like Tai, Thi plans to expand and focus on selling the experience, rather than just the accommodation. In the case of HCMC and Vietnam in general, this could mean a new generation of hosts who incorporate the spirit of entrepreneurship into the sharing culture that runs deep in this country.

Image source: Thi Nguyen