Skift Take

Conley joined Airbnb in time for many of its earlier challenges to lead way to legitimization, making him confident not only of the company's success but his ability to spread the tenets of hospitality to a previously ignorant host set.

Chip Conley, Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy at Airbnb, spoke yesterday at the Skift Global Forum.

Prior to joining Airbnb, Chip founded the award-winning, boutique hotel company, Joie de Vivre Hospitality. For the past 27 years Chip has been a force of innovation in the hospitality industry, he’s overseen the creation and management of 52 boutique hotels and won numerous awards for innovation in customer service and leadership.

Conley spoke with Skift co-founder Jason Clampet about scaling hospitality to a global marketplace. Here are 8 things we learned:

  • “I think what’s similar between a boutique hotel and Airbnb are three key things. Boutique hotels were really all about living like a local. How do you have an experience that feels like a local experience? That was really all around the food experience. Secondly, it was about having a design point of view so the design didn’t feel generic. Thirdly, it was about turning strangers into friends. That’s why we called staff “host” at our hotels. All of these things apply to Airbnb too.”
  • “I think the reason that people are really flocking to Airbnb — this last week we had more than 400,00 people staying in Airbnb around the world — has a lot to do with it being a digital experience from start to finish. It’s really easy to find lots of choices virtually anywhere in the world and book. Try putting boutique hotels all around the world. It’s really hard and takes a lot of time.”
  • “Airbnb was a technology company that wanted to becoming a hospitality company. What I quickly saw when Brian Chesky approached me was a company that if it was going to become a revolutionary company in the long-run, it was because it democratized, in a grassroots way, the idea of hospitality. The hospitality side of the company was one that made me the most fascinated. How do you teach thousands of hosts around the world the science of hospitality?”
  • “We will never compete with Marriott or Hilton for the two-day road warriors. We don’t want that business traveler. For the road warriors that go two days here, two days there, and want a rewards program, that’s just not us.”
  • “One of the things that we have to do a better job on is building better relationships with communities and landlords. In the U.S. we sent out carbon monoxide detectors to create safer buildings, but it also means meeting with people face-to-face. We need to focus on how we can be a good neighbor.”
  • “On any particular night, we have guests the volume of New Orleans staying in Airbnb listings so you’re going to naturally have some issues.”
  • “In 2008 and 2009, a lot of people got into Airbnb because of the economic environment. What’s happened over time is that one of our fastest growing segments right now is empty nesters. These are people like me who have older kids who have moved out, who got laid off last year, and still want to stay in their home. There’s a lot of people who fit that profile. The average age of the people coming [to our hosting event in San Francisco] is 45 years old. The nature of Airbnb is changing and evolving and some of the people getting involved today are more serious. It’s actually bringing out the parents of the millennials saying, ‘I think that i can do that as well.’”
  • “As cities normalize this, I think there are more and more people who could be hosts who will say, ‘Yes I’ll try that. Our primary market is your private space your own home.'”

Keep track of all the activity at today’s Global Forum by bookmarking our #skiftforum tag.

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Tags: airbnb, sgf2014, skift global forum

Photo credit: Chip Conley speaking at Skift Global Forum in New York City on Oct. 9, 2014. Skift

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