This International Women’s Day is all about celebrating ladies who #BreakTheBias, and these five Airbnb hosts personify this to the fullest. By Bayar Jain
Women are no longer relegated to behind-the-scenes in travel and hospitality. Instead, they are increasingly levelling the gameplay by joining male counterparts in the foreground. These five inspiring Airbnb hosts are a small example of this big change.
Meet the women who host
Hailing from Goa, superhost and one of the most hospitable hosts in India (based on 5-star ratings) Cheryl Gonsalves hosts a two-bedroom apartment in the sunshine state. A software engineer who works remotely for a Mumbai-based IT startup, Gonsalves’ adventure with Airbnb first began as a traveller 15 years ago. Hosting, however, started later in February 2021, right after the first wave of the pandemic hit.
“Travelling the local way was always my way, and living in Airbnbs across the world fit that description perfectly,” the dog- and cat-mum says. “It is from these travels that I have gathered my experience and established my listings back home in Goa,” the superhost adds. And thus, her foray into hosting began.
Equipped with WiFi, Cheryl Gonsalves’ two bedroom apartment is at a prime location. Not only does it have easy access to some of the best shacks, restaurants and nightlife spots nearby, it is also perched at a walkable distance from Benaulim beach. Her motivation? Fulfilling small dreams that would otherwise seem distant. She explains, “For instance, I now mostly travel without compromising and that means a lot to me.”
Understanding the hurdles of hosting in India, the superhost weighs in, “I’m aware [that] in India hosting is a male-driven sector but you need to get out of your shell and give your best …don’t flinch or think twice!”
Born and brought up in Shillong, Meghalaya, Margreta Suting is all about breaking age barriers. After spending 17 years of her life traversing the globe from East to West as a Diplomat’s wife and “gaining rich knowledge whilst living in an alien country for almost three years at every single posting”, the senior citizen decided to move onto new ventures. And thus Midhill Cottage was flung open for hosting.
A heritage family home (in Khasi, Suting’s tribe, it is customary for the youngest daughter—in this case, Suting—to inherit ancestral property), Midhill Cottage is located in Nongshilliang. Complete with an old-world charm, the house is also known an ikra house (an Assam-type home) since the lightweight locally-grown reed safeguards the home from seismic eventualities.
Hosting was more of an unavoidable step for the world traveller. During Suting’s global travels, leasing the property was an option. However, upon return, she would often find her house and garden in a tattered state of affairs. While renovating reversed the damage, its sustained care became a new hurdle. “The solution was to join the Airbnb community,” says this superhost, who first started hosting with a trial unit in October 2018. Today, she has hosted over 600 guests and has on offer two more separate units.
Over the years, hosting has extended beyond economic benefits. For Suting, it also means giving employment opportunities to local people and also donating a small amount to the underprivileged. Nonetheless, caution remains a must, especially for women who host on Airbnb. Suting advises, “Choose guests wisely. Keep alert where certain behaviours may be out of place.”
A single woman who hosts on Airbnb, Ranjana Patil started her professional career as a kindergarten teacher in Pune and later, Druk Padma Karpo school in Shey, Ladakh—better known as the school in the Bollywood movie, 3 Idiots. Due to her personal lows, Patil was forced to give up her career as an educator. That’s when Airbnb came to the rescue, allowing the Mumbai-based superhost turn to this platform for a steady income through hosting.
“Travelling never ceases to excite me. I’ve visited 20 countries and I was looking forward to visiting more. However, the pandemic paralysed the tourism sector and my plans had to be withheld till it was safe to travel,” reveals the avid traveller. But as they say, every cloud has a silver lining, and amidst this pandemic, Patil found a new opportunity. “The thought of not being able to travel helped me channel that energy into starting an Airbnb. My travels and stays in Airbnbs helped me incorporate my own experiences into lovely homes for the weary travellers. Setting up an Airbnb was always Plan B, but I feel so fulfilled that it [has become] my Plan A and there’s no looking back!”
Today, along with her only daughter and two German Shepherds, Patil hosts a large private room with a huge double bed in Mumbai for guests willing to explore the Maximum City. The abode comes complete with a 24×7 kitchen, a common area dotted with books in abundance, and a private garden—a rarity in the city—where beautiful birds and butterflies stop by for a quick ‘hello!’
Dhillon has been hosting her holiday home—The Verandah—in Bhimtal, on Airbnb, for four years now. This journey, too, wasn’t planned. What once started as a visit to Jungalia Gaon with a friend soon transformed into building a cottage just to soak in the mesmerising forest views, despite the lack of funds. She elaborates, “Initially it was meant to be a holiday home for my son and friends. I began by having people staying once a month, just to pay for the bills, but everyone who stayed was so thrilled with the view, the village, the forests all around and with Krishna’s food that I realised running it as a homestay would serve both purposes– I could enjoy it and also give others a chance to have a great experience as well.”
Encouraging women to take the step, Dhillon advises, “Do it (…) if you enjoy looking after and maintaining a nice property, working with a team, managing people, and feeling good when guests walk in to see the property and the view and say ‘wow’.”
Carmen de Miranda
A former antique curator, Carmen de Miranda has been hosting on Airbnb since 2017. Her family’s ethos rooted in culture and traditions—”where doors are open and hearts are big”—motivated her to take the step. Today, her villa, Ikshaa, imbibes these beliefs and narrates stories of her travels across the country. Think pillars from Thanjavur, tiles from Kerala, and furniture from Rajasthan all bow-tied with Goan warmth and hospitality. To her, hosting goes beyond the usual 9-to-5. “Hosting is beyond just work or income; it’s what I do round-the-clock.”
Her hack to the art of hosting? “Be yourself. Always think of your home and family, and use this as your guiding hosting principle!”
So, women, what are you waiting for? Break the bias, take the plunge, and get hosting on Airbnb!
Related: New Face of Hospitality Entrepreneurs – These Airbnb Hosts Are Redefining Women Empowerment In Travel & Hospitality