Opening Singapore's doors to the world

Opening Singapore's doors to the world

The concept of a sharing economy is not new, especially to Singaporeans. Back in the day, the older generations were ambassadors of the "kampung spirit". They opened their homes to share their food, culture and life experiences. In more recent times, Singapore has seen the same communal spirit being revitalised through home sharing. I just experienced this "kampung spirit" after spending time in this very special land.

While the traditional accommodation sector continues to do well, and major tourist destinations continue to thrive, today's travellers are also looking for an authentic experience that allows them to live like a local in a city they've never been to before - and get more than just a place to stay. That is especially the case in a city like Singapore that offers so much when it comes to its people, its culture and its traditions.

Tourism is one of the pillars of Singapore's growth and it is inspiring to see how much pride Singaporeans take in sharing their culture with the world. Home sharing helps grow and diversify tourism, spreading benefits to communities and local business outside of tourist hotspots. Around the world, 74 per cent of Airbnb are properties outside of tourist hotspots, allowing travellers to live like a local in specific neighbourhoods. In Singapore, that means eclectic, vibrant places such as Tiong Bahru, Holland Village and Siglap.

These people stay twice as long and spend more in the neighbourhoods they visit, supporting humble homegrown shops. This will be one of the avenues to increase tourism receipts and value-add Singapore's heritage and culture. More importantly, when people travel on Airbnb, 97 per cent of the accommodation cost goes to the local host and stays in the local economy.

For many families, home sharing can be an economic lifeline. A poll by David Binder Research (a polling firm that has worked for President Barack Obama) last year revealed Singaporeans' top two concerns were rising living costs (28 per cent) and low wages (22 per cent). Our community knows that home sharing can be part of the solution to these problems.

Around the world and in Singapore

More cities and countries around the world are embracing home sharing and implementing progressive rules that back innovation and support local residents. Most recently in Asia, the South Korean government introduced legislation that will allow individuals to share their homes up to 180 nights per year, and the Japanese Cabinet approved a new framework for short-term rentals nationwide.

One of the main reasons for this success is how seriously we take trust and safety - it's the cornerstone of our platform. There are a number of tools that keep our neighbourhoods safe and enjoyable for visitors while using Airbnb. A great example of this is our recently launched "neighbourhood tool" which provides a means for anyone to share specific concerns they might have about a listing in their community, such as noise complaints.

Leading countries and cities such as France, London, Chicago, Dubai, Philadelphia and Amsterdam have adopted fair and progressive rules that allow regular people to share their homes. We encourage Singapore to join this trend, and adopt fair and progressive rules to allow regular people to share their homes.

We are heartened that 72 per cent of the Singaporeans polled by David Binder Research support new rules that allow individuals in their primary residence to occasionally rent out their homes to short-term visitors.

We understand and appreciate that the idea of extending home sharing into HDB units is challenging. For this reason, our focus is on working with the government to put in place clear and simple rules that will allow for home sharing in private homes. Such an approach would allow Singapore to continue to play its historic role as a global economic leader by adopting an approach to the fast-growing sharing economy that is consistent with the nature of its unique housing market.

We believe that a policy that is designed to solely address home sharing in private homes is the right step for Singapore at this time. This private home focused approach would give the government the data and feedback it needs about home sharing, while still allowing those who are in private homes - and Singapore as a whole - to receive the economic benefits of home sharing: more tourism dollars staying in Singapore and going to more people who call Singapore home.

Sharing economy

Singapore is one of the best countries to live in. Adaptability has seen the country grow from strength to strength - in a generation. New innovations, programmes and regulations have been enacted to match the needs of individuals and the changing economy. Singapore has stood as a global model of innovation and with the growth of the sharing economy, now the opportunity has come to continue to be a leader in innovation. For our part, we are committed to working with the local community and the government to ensure ordinary people can be part of the tremendous growth of the sharing economy.

The writer is head of global policy and communications for Airbnb.


This article was first published on Aug 27, 2016.
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