Beyond Cities: How Airbnb supports rural revitalisation in Korea

Hee-rak dreamed of enjoying the life away from the city, away from all complexities of relationships, commitments, high rents, and etc. When he retired about 4 years ago, he finally moved to Jeollanam-do, a province located in southwest Korea. The joy of living the rural life did not last long, as he realized the necessity of human interaction.

Hee-rak witnessed his life changing after he started hosting on Airbnb. His interaction with guests gave him new kind of energy, just what he needed.

“I find joy in introducing my traditional house and the Korean culture to guests from all over the world — United States, China, Indonesia, and etc.”

Through home-sharing, the benefits of increased tourism are finally being distributed to regions beyond cities.

Airbnb’s global report, “Beyond Cities”, shows the impact to rural regions of 11 countries, one of which is Korea. The eleven regions studied attracted more than 8.5 million travellers in a year, driving more than 1 billion USD in host income.

While Airbnb’s work in cities receives the most attention, our growth beyond them—including in Korea—is outpacing our growth within them. The report shows that guest growth in regions outside of major cities, including Seoul, Gwangju, Daegu, Daejeon, Busan, Incheon, and Ulsan, grew by 194% from 2015 to 2016, compared with 148% growth in major cities. This trend also applies to other countries including Australia, Taiwan, Japan, France, Italy, and more.

The lack of infrastructure made it difficult for rural regions to receive the benefits of increased tourism (more than half of the population lives in Seoul and Gyeonggi areas). Home sharing has always existed in rural areas, and as it grows in popularity through Airbnb, we can expect further positive change. Airbnb can provide the “gateway” to global travellers to explore rural regions outside of big cities.

Some Korean governments have already recognized the impact Airbnb can have. Last April, Airbnb signed an MOU with the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (MAFRA) and Korea Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI) to boost rural tourism and business across the country. Similarly, Airbnb signed an MOU with Chungnam Province and Gangwon Province, where the 97th National Sports Festival and 2018 Winter Olympic Games are to be held, respectively.

Cities Outside of Cities
Australia 106% 127%
Taiwan 104% 116%
Japan 189% 267%
Korea 149% 194%
France 72% 130%
Italy 54% 74%
Canada 107% 140%
Brazil 133% 240%
Argentina 85% 298%

Download the report here