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19 Hints to Airbnb’s Strategy to Become the Asset-Light Global Hospitality Brand

Mar 18, 2014 8:30 am

Skift Take

Airbnb’s ambitions listed here are a huge task and with its funding and right management, it may just have a chance at becoming the global leisure and hospitality brand for the millennial generation.

— Rafat Ali

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Photo courtesy Airbnb blog.

Which parts of the global travel industry will Airbnb attack? Photo courtesy Airbnb blog.


In a few years of its existence, Airbnb has risen to be a top 15 online travel booking site globally.

It is only a matter of time before it uses that traffic — and its huge funding chest — to funnel it into building a bigger position in the global travel industry that goes way beyond its sharing economy image.

But how quickly will it move beyond its current apartment and house short-term rentals? As soon as this summer, according to a long profile of the company and founder Brian Chesky, in the latest issue of Fast Company.

Based on the open and implied hints in the FastCompany story, which Airbnb cooperated with fully, we believe it is building a global hospitality brand, not unlike the likes of the largest hotel brands globally, namely Starwood, Wyndham, Accor, InterContinental, and others.

All of these hospitality companies have increasingly moved — albeit in fits and starts — to an “asset-light” strategy, which in essence means these companies have become brand managers and standardized the services under them, while the real estate is owned by someone else. That, in essence, is what we think Airbnb is aiming to be, with the real estate being controlled by the owners of the properties in marketplace, while it provides the common services on top of it, beyond just enabling the booking.

Part of it is moving beyond vacation shares, to adding traditional B&Bs, traditional vacation rentals, independent hotels and other unique hotel-type properties. But that is already beginning to happen.

Beyond that, it will need to create the services needed to become a global hotel brand management company. That will include in-trip services for travelers and properties, such as transportation, front of the house and back of the house hotel services, concierge services, and tours and activities, among others.

It will also aim at standardizing these services enough to even attract business travelers, and possibly even the companies that want to house their business travelers in Airbnb properties through a dedicated online service.

We’ve compiled a list of 19 hints below — based on the Fast Company article — that lay out its future strategy. The biggest move in that direction was the hiring last year of Chip Conley, the innovative founder of Joie de Vivre Hotels, as the Head of Global Hospitality. His help building service element in tandem with the well-designed online marketplace will be essential.

From the article:

  1. “Chesky has decided that Airbnb will become nothing less than a full-blown hospitality brand, one that delivers a seamless end-to-end experience when its customers travel.”
  2. “Chesky will debut new initiatives sometime this summer.”
  3. “Our business isn’t [renting] the house…Our business is the entire trip.”
  4. “Create a portfolio of new services that make the Airbnb experience more consistent from stay to stay, and that can generate lots and lots of additional revenue. One starting point: a cleaning service that will offer fresh sheets and towels to Airbnb proprietors.”
  5. “We stop by one developer’s desk to ask what he is working on. He tells us that he’s building an engine to handle transient occupancy taxes for a place like New York City.”
  6. “How do you get into those other areas of the trip, like the car ride from the airport and exploring the neighborhood where you’re staying?”
  7. “Airbnb would no longer be about where you stay, but what you do–and whom you do it with–while you’re there.”
  8. “The 30 slides now hang around Airbnb’s product studio like the Stations of the Cross, each radiating empathy for each particular emotional moment in a trip: the guest’s arrival at the airport, her transportation, the first interaction with the host, and more.”
  9. “Chesky and Conley even built out a “hospitality lab”…where the company can learn from seeing hosts and guests together in a physical space.”
  10. “It’s all a big change for a company where, employees tell me, the word hospitality was once shunned as a relic of Old World grand hotels.”
  11. “A slew of services for its hosts and guests will be introduced, streamlining the trip experience, says Chesky.”
  12. “He is particularly excited about the cleaning services that Airbnb has tested in preparation for a summer launch. ‘It’s full-service cleaning…with stocking, which means leaving towels, bed sheets, mints, and a welcome package, like Vitaminwater in the fridge. And also staging, which is making sure the heating and lights are on.'”
  13. “There will also be new ways for hosts to classify their listings, to say, for example, ‘I’m a business-ready listing.’ That could make it easier for Airbnb to woo corporate travelers, who represent roughly 40% of the market.”
  14. “Chesky does hint that ‘there might be an opportunity to democratize a lot of the services that the Four Seasons provides.'”
  15. “A source familiar with the company’s plans indicates that Airbnb has tested an airport-transportation service similar to Uber.”
  16. “Once the guest has made a decision where to stay, [he or she] may need a dry cleaner, or a restaurant in the neighborhood, or transportation service to and from there. Airbnb could become a travel agent for the people who are staying with its hosts.”
  17. “Conley and Chesky believe that Airbnb will win by delivering local experiences chock-full of personality and idiosyncrasies, all supported by the best hospitality its hosts can deliver.”
  18. “Apple has a consistent UI on every phone, but the content is unique every single time…That’s what we want.”
  19. Services for business travelers and companies wanting to book its employees on these trips, using Airbnb: This tweet from the writer of the FC story hints at it:

Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 1.09.09 AM

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