Airbnb wins in Rio, even in the poorest neighborhoods

Airbnb, the “official alternative accommodation service” for the Olympics, has made a big investment in Rio and it is already paying off. A city that once lacked enough hotels and is living under the Brazilian recession has presented a great opportunity for the roommate market.

“This is the first time that we have officially introduced home sharing at the Olympics,” said Leonardo Tristao, Airbnb Country Director for Brazil. “We make sure that anyone who wants to come to the Olympics has a place to stay in Rio.”

In preparation for the Olympics, Airbnb worked in coordination with the organizing committee to encourage people to open their homes to visitors.

They also worked directly with local communities to engage them through webinars and events to share “best practices” among them.

Christ the Redeemer at sunrise in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 2, 2016.

Kai Pfaffenbach | Reuters

It wasn’t that hard to sell. A Brazilian recession means that many homeowners are looking for additional income.

“A lot of people in the community have lost their jobs and Airbnb has become – for them – their only source of income,” Tristao said.

Airbnb says more than 66,000 people have confirmed their stay with Airbnb for the Olympics.

Some people even choose to stay in the poorest areas of Brazil, the favelas.

Airbnb has a strong, trusted and security team that proactively monitors its listings, Tristao said.

“For Airbnb, it all depends on how we keep our community safe, and that also applies to the Rio Games,” he added.

Of course, Airbnb will have to keep an eye out for locals overcrowding rooms, as it must have done during the Super Bowl earlier this year in California and other big events.

Co-founder and product manager of online accommodation provider Airbnb, Joe Gebbia announces to the media his partnership with the Brazilian Olympic Committee for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the headquarters of the Brazilian Olympic Committee in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on March 27 . 2015.

Yasuyoshi Chiba | AFP | Getty Images

Brazil tasted shared accommodation two years ago.

“The very first chapter for Airbnb in Brazil was the World Cup,” Tristao said. “And they realized that it was a very nice experience. Word of mouth spread in Rio. They were able to get extra income because of it. They were able to have a cultural exchange, which was amazing. I think it was a natural way for the community to grow two years later.

Today, Brazil is the fourth largest city for Airbnb, after Paris, New York and London. Over the past year, the number of registrations in the country has grown from 20,000 to over 38,000.

And it’s not just foreigners who use the service.

Tristao said that in 2014, bookings from Brazilians represented only 6% of bookings. Today that number has risen to 50 percent.

“Brazilians are naturally hospitable,” Tristao said. “It’s in our blood.”

DISCLOSURE: CNBC’s parent company, NBCUniversal, owns NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. NBC Olympics is the US licensee to broadcast all Summer and Winter Games until 2032.

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