Singapore hotelier finds target clientele after showcasing unique “digital hostel” on Airbnb


  • Number of beds: 100

  • First listed on Airbnb: 2018

  • Key benefit: Ability to showcase uniqueness of property

  • Other benefit: Better guest fit through Airbnb


Vikram Bharati was met with more than a few raised eyebrows when he first began pitching his plan: a networking hub for millennial entrepreneurs inside a hostel in the heart of Singapore. He imagined a hot spot where digital nomads and business travelers could hash out ideas for new companies.

“Our mission is to connect, inspire, empower the world’s entrepreneurs,” the 38-year-old former JP Morgan vice president says of the Tribe Theory Venture Hostel. “We’re not just a place for people to have an affordable social space.”

But there was a hitch. Traditional online travel agencies, or OTAs, which accounted for the majority of his bookings, tended to bring in typical budget travelers—19-year-old backpackers passing through on their gap years— not the entrepreneurial knowledge workers he was after. Guests coming in from Airbnb, on the other hand, fit the bill perfectly, but they were a small slice of the total.

“People who come through Airbnb are 100% our target audience.”

Vikram Bharati, Tribe Theory Hostel

“People who come through Airbnb are 100% our target audience,” Vikram says. They’re comfortable working remotely, know how to use tech, and are well-traveled and adventurous. They understand that Tribe Theory, which has expanded to other locations in Asia, is about innovation. “Every single Airbnb guest that has come in, has come in knowing that this is a space to do that,” he says.

It didn’t take long for Vikram to identify a big factor behind the different guest profiles. The detailed listing page on Airbnb enables him to represent the uniqueness of Tribe Theory to potential guests. That’s critical, because Tribe Theory’s properties are not your typical hostels.

The Singapore location has three dormitory-style rooms, each with 10 “pods” equipped with a mattress, curtains for privacy and its own lighting. A third-floor loft provides ample workspace and the large back patio hosts networking events and launch parties. A venture capital firm that invested in Tribe Theory takes pitches from guests. Vikram’s vision is to offer these and other services for startups at every Tribe Theory hostel.

Their listing page describes in detail how the “DNA of the entrepreneurial spirit” pervades “every brick and tile” of the hostel. Traditional online travel agencies didn’t allow him to do that, and as a result, the guests who signed up through those tended to expect a more traditional hostel experience.

So Vikram set out to shift more of his listings to Airbnb. He worked to connect the property management software he was using for other sites to Airbnb. The new software, along with new features Airbnb had built specifically to support hotels, allow him to manage all his beds from one location.

Tribe Theory no longer needs 10 separate listings on Airbnb for each of the 10 beds in one of his rooms, and his staff is freed from having to keep the price and availability of the inventory on Airbnb consistent with what’s posted elsewhere. “It’s completely synced,” Vikram says. “Productivity of our team members has increased because we spend less time doing manual assignments of beds.”

In the past year, Vikram has more than tripled his inventory on Airbnb. He’s now doing the same at other hostels he recently launched, including ones in Bali and Bangalore. By the end of the year he expects that Tribe Theory will be operating in 10 countries—with two or more hostels in a few.

“I hope to really push and sell more inventory on Airbnb because the types of guests who come in are the right types of guests for us,” Vikram says. “They are more tech savvy, and they’re looking for something different than what is available on other OTAs. “



Want to learn more? Click here to learn about professional hosting with Airbnb.