Airbnb is emphasizing its host community to make sleeping with strangers less weird

During the year Airbnb opening 2015 conference in Paris last week, there was a clear shift towards greater emphasis on the Airbnb host community as the core value proposition for the brand.

In the past, much of the discussion around Airbnb’s unique selling points has focused on the affordability of the room-sharing model and direct access to local neighborhoods.

The concept of community, however, implies a certain level of trust, familiarity, and security, which helps ease the uncomfortable nature of the guest experience for more conservative travelers who are unsure about staying with a stranger.

The Sense of community Surrounding Airbnb is becoming its biggest differentiator in the travel market.

Going forward, the company is prioritizing its host ecosystem above all else to both further cement its relationship with those hosts and address the concerns of people who haven’t tried room sharing.

Chip Conley, Head of Hospitality at Airbnb, kicked off his Open keynote by saying that Airbnb considers its hosts partners, and he underscored how much the company values ​​them. Hosts are the business rather than the rosters, he said, which was an oft-repeated refrain throughout the conference.

Conley then asked two Airbnb hosts in the audience in Queenstown, New Zealand, what Airbnb does well to engage them and what it could do better.

Hosts responded that they love the user experience of the website which makes it easier to market their listing and communicate with customers. However, they would prefer better communication directly with the Airbnb company for times when they have questions about how to handle specific situations.

During the Founders Session right after that, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky discussed the continued evolution of customer service for hosts.

He mentioned a 2011 incident in San Francisco when a guest ransacked a host’s apartment and Airbnb didn’t respond as well as it should have, sparking a “media storm”. . Chesky called it a huge wake-up call for the company, and he said Airbnb now invests heavily in continuously improving customer service levels year after year.

“Imagine if the phone number was just a click away and you called us and we answered the question in seconds and solved your problem immediately,” he said. It’s something we certainly have a vision to do.

Chesky added that the company was still in its infancy and quoted one of Airbnb’s early investors as saying, “A startup is a bit like jumping off a cliff and assembling a plane out of descending.”

Currently, the biggest cloud raining down on Airbnb’s parade is the regulatory hurdles constantly played out in the media. Chesky pointed out that everyone at Airbnb, including Airbnb hosts, wants the room-sharing industry to be fully regulated because it will legitimize the industry as an industry.

Before the birth of the sharing economy, he says, there were people and there were businesses. Now that people can be businesses themselves as Airbnb hosts, many cities are unprepared to deal with this in terms of drafting new regulatory laws.

“I think a lot of us want to be regulated, because to be regulated is to be recognized,” Chesky explained. “We don’t think Home Sharing should stay in the shadows…. I look forward to maybe a future step with Airbnb where we can consider the idea of ​​legitimizing accommodation in 34,000 cities around the world as a thing of the past.

Nathan Blecharczyk, CTO and co-founder of Airbnb, added that one of the biggest challenges he sees for Airbnb is managing expectations.

“What we’re doing is still relatively new to a lot of people,” he said. “There are a lot of new guests, so it’s really about trying to understand what the guest is expecting, and also explaining what it is that [we] provide, and make sure it’s a good fit.

never a stranger

So what does the Airbnb host community look like for the travel consumer who has never used Airbnb before?

Or as Airbnb CMO Jonathan Mildenhall said during his Airbnb Open session: “Why should I stay in someone else’s house?”

The uncertainty of sharing a house or apartment with a stranger is the elephant in the room for Airbnb, so the company is tackling this issue by acknowledging that it’s a major problem. First, Mildenhall and Chesky said Airbnb rephrases the word “stranger” as “just someone you’ve never met before.”

“Our enemy is actually not the hotels, it’s not the VRBO, and it’s not the bed and breakfasts,” explained Peter Giorgi, global head of advertising and content at Airbnb, during his session at the Open. “Our enemy is actually the idea that strangers exist in the world, and the idea that staying with a stranger is strange.”

With that in mind, Airbnb has released the “Never A Stranger” video above which shows a young woman traveling alone and living with families around the world in places like Rio de Janeiro and Paris. The video is basically the visualization of Airbnb’s “Belong Anywhere” brand slogan and mission.

Certainly, video is a highly idealized version of the host/guest relationship. Few of us who have stayed at Airbnb properties are as embraced as this woman by adults and children, and the listing in Tulum is $1,700 per night.

Giorgi said the listing in Rio was $95 per night, so he felt comfortable showing a price range because Airbnb doesn’t necessarily want to be seen as just a cheap place to stay.

Expect to see more of this type of branded storytelling as Airbnb focuses on the Never A Stranger theme. The idea of ​​sleeping in alternative accommodation is a tough sell for many travelers, but Giorgi says the strategy is to highlight the transformative nature of the customer’s overall travel experience with Airbnb versus the guest room. friends.

The goal is really to inspire people who haven’t stayed with Airbnb to go beyond their immediate perceptions and maybe step out of their comfort zone a bit to try something new.

“We wanted you to see a woman who starts out alone and ends up being embraced by all these people, and feeling like a better version of herself,” Giorgi said. “We wanted to show this idea that you could be transformed by a great Airbnb experience.”

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