A Travel Now exclusive interview with seasoned AirBnB Experiences host Omar Palero on how he got started in the business and what’s in store when you sign up for any of his tours in Intramuros, Escolta, Binondo, Pasay, Población, Quezon, and Tagaytay.
BY VIDA GABE
In late 2017, Airbnb introduced Experiences to its roster of services, allowing members of the site to sign up for one- or two-day excursions with locals for minimal fees. Since then, Experiences has been steadily gaining popularity among Airbnb visitors looking to have more personal and immersive trips. In the Philippines, Airbnb Experiences host Omar Palero is a seasoned professional, hosting a total of eight Experiences in places all over Metro Manila and beyond. Travel Now had a chat with the former architect turned entrepreneur and asked him a few questions about being an Airbnb Experiences host.
TN: How did you get started as an Airbnb Experiences host?
Omar: Being an Airbnb host was something unplanned. It was a sponsored ad on Facebook that got me started. I clicked on the link and got introduced to how it works. I was blown away with the idea that it gives the opportunity for locals to share the activities they love doing to tourists visiting the area. At that time, Airbnb hosting was relatively new and there were less than 30 available for the entire Metro Manila. Being an architect and a graduate from a university within the historic Intramuros, as well as being a former resident of Chinatown, Binondo, I grabbed the chance to post my first Experience entitled “Travel Back in Time in Intramuros” that went live in February 2019. I have the advantage of offering unique activities in areas not listed on typical itineraries.
TN: What was your experience with Airbnb before becoming a host? What led you to decide to become an Airbnb Experiences host?
Prior to hosting Experiences, I have booked rooms with the website for popular destinations like Kuala Lumpur, Boracay, and Tagaytay. I find the response more personal compared to established hotels. For solo travel, it gives you the opportunity to gain friends prior to your visit especially when the host is available.
I was fortunate to be on board when Airbnb Experiences was still new to Manila. When I checked the other listings, most were offered on weekends with limited availability. Having retired from my corporate job, my schedule is more flexible and I have the opportunity to make my tours available on most days. I had my first booking just weeks after it went live and I have been constantly getting guests on a weekly basis. The advantage with AirBnb is that it’s an established booking site, and it’s them that push the activities to tourists visiting in the area. The system provides security in terms of cancellation and an opportunity for guests to share their feedback and comments.
TN: What are some of the memorable moments you’ve had so far as a host?
I’ve had a few interesting encounters. I had a lady guest that reviewed me with 5 stars, sharing that I gave her the boyfriend experience. The biggest group I hosted was a family of eight who visited the Philippines for a wedding that I ended up being invited to.
My most memorable encounter would have to be the first time I conducted my Tagaytay tour. It was cloudy at the time of our arrival and we barely had a clear view of the volcano. To compensate, I took my guests to Chosen Children Village, an orphanage that was being helped by the company I used to work for. I made an impromptu decision to donate a portion of the fee and let my guests interact with the children. It became the most rewarding part of the trip as they mentioned in their reviews that I am now including it in my itinerary.
TN: How would you say your overall experience as an Airbnb host has been so far? What advice would you give to people interested in becoming hosts themselves?
Since February, I’ve been able to host close to 100 guests already. I was once asked by a guest if I ever get tired of visiting the same places weekly and my response was that it’s also my opportunity to meet different kinds of people. I might be going to the same places but it’s always with a different group of people from different parts of the globe. I learn from them as much as they learn from me.
To those thinking of becoming an AirbnB host, my advice is to inject yourself into the tours. Sometimes tourists don’t want to be bombarded with history lessons but prefer to have an immersive connection to a place.
TN: That’s great advice. Lastly, for those interested in touring rather hosting, how can they get in touch with you or sign up for your Experiences?
My Experiences are listed on the Airbnb website. Just type in the search box: ‘Metro Manila Experiences’. I’m now expanding to weekend trips which I will make available through my website www.rainbowasia.co. You can also get in touch with me through my Instagram accounts: @omar.palero and @rainbowasiatravel.
AIR BNB EXPERIENCES WITH OMAR
Signing up for an Experience can sometimes be a daunting task with so many options on the table. Here’s a list of the Airbnb Experiences Omar offers and his brief take on what makes each Experience worth doing.
Travel Back in Time at Intramuros (Link: https://www.airbnb.com/experiences/514100)
Intramuros is the most popular historical site in Manila. What makes my tour unique is that I customize the tour based on my guests’ interests. I can take them to a liquor sampling, or try the sampaguita (Philippine jasmine) ice cream, or if time permits, view the sunset from the highest spot within the walled city.
Walk and Eat in Escolta and Chinatown (Link: https://www.airbnb.com/experiences/587328)
It’s easy for tourists to do a food crawl in Chinatown, but growing up in Chinatown, Binondo has given me the advantage to curate food stops that are my personal favorites. My tour also allows guests to visit and get to know the buildings that stood witness to the glory days of Escolta. It was my visit to Melbourne that inspired me to do the tour. I’m hoping that in my small way, I can create interest in our heritage buildings to save them from demolition and build support for their adaptive reuse instead. Not only am I able to share the architectural styles of the buildings, but I can also offer a bit of trivia for each stop.
Seafood Market to Table Experience (Link: https://www.airbnb.co.uk/experiences/667052)
Visiting a dampa (seafood wet market) can be overwhelming especially with barkers luring you to visit their establishments. I allow my guests to choose and haggle for the price of their ingredients and bring them to the restaurant that has been a witness to my family’s celebrations. It’s the best way to get acquainted with Filipino food and our way of eating.
Eat, Dance and Drink in Intramuros (Link: https://www.airbnb.com/experiences/628822)
I created this experience as an optional addition to touring Intramuros. This provides my guests the opportunity to get to know a variety of Filipino dishes while being entertained with traditional songs and dances.
Roofdeck Bar Crawl in Población, Makati (Link: https://www.airbnb.com/experiences/700379)
An interesting way to appreciate the metropolis is to see it from above. I have selected four different rooftop bars in Población, with each one exuding a different vibe.
Manila to Pahiyas Fiesta Experience (Link: https://www.airbnb.com/experiences/681990)
This is my annual offering. This lets my guests immerse themselves in a community fiesta (festival) celebration. Also, Pahiyas is unique in itself because of how colorfully they decorate the houses along the procession route with produce. It’s also a good way to sample the local street food that makes Lucban, Quezon popular.
Escape Manila to Tagaytay City (Link: https://www.airbnb.com/experiences/875192)
Aside from taking my guest to see the volcano island from one of the best viewing decks, I have organized stops along the route to make their visit memorable. I have included a stop to an orphanage where a portion of the fee is donated in my guests’ name, which they can top up upon interacting with the children.
Gay Clubbing in Manila (Link: https://www.airbnb.com/experiences/539449)
Clubbing in Manila can be intimidating and based on my observation, tourists coming to the clubs are sidelined. This Experience gives my guests the chance to gain instant friends by including them in our group and sharing equally in the table charge.