Skift Take

The Airbnb Community Compact, released this week, says all the things it wants cities to hear, but it's the hosts that have real insight.

Last week Airbnb landed a victory in San Francisco that will likely inform all future challenges that cities want to take on with the home-sharing site, and it also led the company to outline how it will work with cities in the future, ideally preventing another Prop F near miss.

Released this week, that outline, dubbed the “Airbnb Community Compact” [see full text below] has elements of both ambiguity and specificity and emphatically–some might say crassly–echoes the U.S. Constitution, romanticizing that “Airbnb is a people-to-people platform—of the people, by the people and for the people—that was created during the Great Recession to help people around the world use what is typically their greatest expense, their home, to generate supplemental income.”

A blog post introducing the document asserts, albeit questionably, that “home sharing has long existed as a right. For many years, everyday people visiting a city have sought out home sharing as a way to have an authentic experience, visit a vacation market or explore a non-traditional destination.”

“Our founders have established a clear set of core principles that guide Airbnb’s policy efforts when it comes to developing partnerships with cities that embrace the right of people to share their homes… But we know we have more work to do. We are 100 percent committed to being constructive partners with regulatory agencies and policymakers.”

The actual document states: “Airbnb is committed to working with cities where our community has a significant presence and where there is support for the right of people to share their homes, both when they are present and when they are out of town.”

Though appearing sincere, Airbnb isn’t about to let politicians and community leaders control the conversation and gain the upper hand. The above quote represents the extent of Airbnb’s willingness to cooperate with local governments–take our side or prepare for battle.

There’s already precedent for how much commitment Airbnb will apply in such a battle: Airbnb outspent proponents of San Francisco’s restrictive Prop. F ballot measure 30-1. And today in Paris at the Airbnb Open gathering of Airbnb hosts, chief policy lead Chris Lehane said it’s “so big that no army could ever stop it.”

The community compact, while outlining how Airbnb will respond to short and long-term rental issues facing cities and hosts, is an open-ended call to arms regarding whether the company will act more proactively or reactively.

The main tenets of the community compact:

  • “Treat every city personally and help ensure [Airbnb’s community] pays its fair share of hotel and tourist taxes.”
  • “On an annual basis, Airbnb will also release Home Sharing Activity Reports in cities where our community has a significant presence,” (though most of this information will be anonymous, according to the document).
  • “We will work with [cities and hosts] to prevent short-term rentals from impacting the availability of long-term rental housing by ensuring hosts agree to a policy of listing only permanent homes on a short-term basis…Additionally, we will work with cities to determine whether non-permanent homes that would otherwise not be on the market as long-term rentals (such as a second home that is occasionally used) can be made available for short-term rentals consistent with the policy needs of a particular city.”

Trends Airbnb Hosts Have Noticed With Guests

While legal battles carry on in cities around the world, Airbnb hosts–the paramount means for the company’s existence–spread hospitality in the only ways their cultures know how.

The community compact also states, “Airbnb will work to educate hosts and guests about the home sharing needs and rules in cities,” which will likely take the form of already existing Airbnb Meetups happening each month in major cities in the U.S. and Europe. These meetups for hosts in a particular city are part seminar for how to create high quality guest experiences, part instruction for how to navigate local short-term rental laws and part networking events.

Skift recently talked to three Airbnb hosts on three different continents to get their perspectives on how Airbnb guests’ expectations have changed since they’ve become hosts, what guests expect from hosts, and how common stereotypes of an Airbnb guest (i.e. young, leisure, budget travelers, etc) aren’t always accurate. Following are their thoughts:

Kristian Sun, Airbnb host in Madrid, Spain:

Airbnb host background: Began renting out his private room in 2013 and now manages two apartments that he lists on Airbnb. During the past two years Sun has hosted about 300 travelers.

Some guests have become demanding. They expect more ‘service,’ and basic equipment. Sometimes guests show up and have a different opinion about my apartment than what they thought they would be getting based on photos and descriptions they read online, but that’s the minority.

I’ve hosted many elderly travelers 75 years old and older as well as plenty of families with young kids. I’ve also hosted several business travelers, about 40 during the past two years. I’ve split business travelers into two groups: One group consists of those that booked their flight and hotel through their companies and they book additional nights to spend some vacation time in the city staying with me after they’re done with their business.

The other group directly books the apartment for the entirety of their business stays. These business travelers are in Madrid for fairs or meetings and work for large global companies who have offices in the city. I also hear many times that they are here for trainings they give here when a company wants to introduce a new software program, for example.

Other than good Wi-Fi the business travelers haven’t required much more from me than my leisure guests require and most of these business travelers have told me they plan on returning to stay with me. I’d say 80% of the business travelers who’ve stayed with me have stayed with me for their entire trip. I’d also be interested in getting involved with Airbnb for Business but don’t know how to sign up for that and haven’t heard anything from Airbnb about that.

Danny Rothschild, Airbnb host in New York City:

Airbnb host background: Began renting out his private room in 2014 and also his entire apartment and has welcomed 88 guests from 12 countries and 28 cities.

My listing was on the Upper West Side near Central park, a little more expensive than average, and the aesthetic of the home was focused on swanky and iconic mid-century modern design, so we got a slightly older crowd. Our guests were lot of successful entrepreneurs and couples that preferred staying in a home environment and seeing the city like a local over the clinical hotel feel.

For the guests that rented out the entire apartment we usually didn’t see them [after initially welcoming them] until they checked out, but I still checked in via text at least every other day. I’ve stayed in Airbnbs where I never met the owner, and it was just someone who was paid to let us in. I get why some people do that, but it definitely feels less personal and more like a hotel.

I think most of my guests were a lot more laid back than I was prepared for, we definitely went above and beyond to give our guests the best experience, but we were really proud of that so kept it up even after realizing that guests expected less. I now know that I don’t have to spend nearly as much time with them, that they can go out and do their own thing. Every moment that was spent in the apartment together didn’t have to be an entertaining moment. In fact, some of my favorite memories were when we’d all chill out in the living room each working on our respective projects, reading a book, taking a nap, etc.

Another reflection on our younger guests is that they had the lowest expectations, definitely more laid back, and were much more open to getting drinks with us or just hanging out.

Juan Jaramillo, Airbnb host in Medellin, Colombia:

Airbnb host background: Began renting out a private room in 2014 and since then has leased another apartment and rents that out in its entirety and has hosted more than 130 guests from 11 countries.

There are many differences between staying in my space and a hotel. My spaces are decorated and equipped with the same qualities of a 5-star hotel (said by guests themselves in their Airbnb reviews), but with a price much lower than the rates.

By staying in my space, guests can interact daily with locals in Medellin, can cook, know customs and speak on any topic of interest. With many typical meal we cooked, we tasted the national drinks and danced at home and had a lot of fun. This makes the atmosphere very family-oriented, making them feel like they have the freedom to feel at home. For me being a host is the most important thing I can do for my city and country and I’m an ambassador to Medellin and I do this with a lot of love. Some guests have already returned in the last year, and two of them have come to live in my city which is one of the best in the world to live.

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Tags: airbnb

Photo credit: An Airbnb listing in Medellin, Colombia. Juan Jaramillo / Airbnb

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