Can lightning strike twice for Airbnb when it comes to disrupting the travel industry and accommodations as we know it? Whether it does (or not), the company's head of homes, Greg Greeley, will play a huge role in determining the company's future and its ability to become that superbrand of travel.
More than 1,100 of travel's most forward-thinking insiders will gather for our annual Skift Global Forum in New York, September 27–28. In just a few years, Skift's Forums — the largest creative business gatherings in the global travel industry — have become what media, speakers, and attendees have called the “TED Talks of travel.”
Skift Global Forum 2018 will take place at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall in New York. This year's Forum speakers include CEOs and top executives from Uber, Airbnb, Delta Air Lines, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Marriott International, and many more.
It’s only been about seven months since Greg Greeley, an 18-year Amazon veteran who helped create the wildly popular Amazon Prime membership program, joined homesharing giant Airbnb as its new president of homes in March.
In this role, Greeley oversees the newly launched Airbnb Plus collection of vetted homes, Airbnb Collections (homes that are identified for certain travel types/occasions), and both the Superhost and Superguest programs for Airbnb hosts and guests.
Greeley has joined Airbnb at a crucial point in the company’s decade-long existence, and at a time when the company is a leader in its industry, but also being hard pressed to continue to innovate and maintain its leading position, not only in private accommodations, but in the overall travel landscape.
When Greeley takes the stage at the upcoming Skift Global Forum in New York on Sept. 27, he’ll be discussing whether Airbnb can, yet again, disrupt accommodations for a second time, as well as what else lies ahead for the company that is reportedly worth more than $31 billion.
What follows is a preview of what to expect from Skift’s upcoming on-stage interview with Greeley.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Skift: When you joined Airbnb as head of homes, what were your primary goals or objectives to achieve within your first year there? How well on your way are you to achieving them?
Greg Greeley: I’ll keep this simple and narrow the time frame to just my first few months. We can have a longer conversation about the year ahead later.
Broadly, I have three main priorities. First and foremost, I’ve been focused on amplifying the great work already in progress. Second, bring more hosts home to Airbnb and open more doors to more guests. Third, connect home guests to experiences.
We continue to grow hosts on Airbnb. We popularized the idea of homesharing. Our hosts offer the most unique and exclusive inventory in the world. Roughly 3.5 million of our 5 million listings can only be booked on Airbnb.
I’m excited that Laura Chambers joined us in July to lead our new Homes host category. She’s already working to make sure that our core hosts join and thrive on Airbnb, that we support them and create a vibrant community, and that we build awesome new verticals. She brings a passion for marketplaces with a mission, having spent the past 13 years at eBay, PayPal, and Skype.
Our Airbnb Plus offering is exceeding our expectations for bringing more new guests to Airbnb. We are seeing strong consideration among new guests at Plus listings. Overall, we are seeing our overall guest arrivals continue to grow with more than 300 million to date.
Our Experiences business is now in 800 cities worldwide, up from when they were only available in around 60 global cities at the start of the year. More than 1 million people have now taken an Airbnb Experience. With this explosive growth, we want to help connect our homes guests to Experiences, thereby succeeding in our overall vision to offer every part of the trip and be the homepage of travel.
Skift: Booking.com claims it has more home listings than Airbnb. How many listings does Airbnb have now, and what do you think is the true measure of strength in homesharing/private accommodations: scale/number of listings or brand strength?
Greeley: True strength of Airbnb hospitality is more of a calculus equation which measures a number of unique strengths, including the power of community, network effect, unique and high quality inventory, brand strength, and, of course, our beloved hosts.
Airbnb is a community, not a commodity. It’s our Airbnb community that distinguishes us from others. We’ve had over 300 million cumulative guest arrivals since 2008, and more than 5 million global total active listings.
Let’s look at the strength of our community. Our hosts have voluntarily come together to form more than 250 local host clubs around the world. Our community has incredibly high participation, with nearly more than 70 percent leaving reviews, and the accumulation of these reviews builds a currency of trust that is difficult to replicate and drives the quality of bookings.
We also have a global network operating in 192 countries with a leading position in almost all of them. Our guests spread our concept as they travel, and guests come from all over the world and travel to 81,000 cities. The power of this global network effect is that it is primarily driven by word of mouth, with 60 percent of our guests saying they heard about Airbnb from a friend or family member.
We also offer unique and high-quality inventory that creates a new category of travel that is authentic and people-powered, [in contrast] to the existing mass tourism industry. We are in the business of unlocking and creating new inventory. Airbnb Plus is a unique type of inventory that doesn’t exist anywhere else and initial consumer reaction is extremely strong.
And as for our brand, our goal is to build the first super brand in travel. We have extremely strong organic traffic to our platform. Our brand has become both a noun and a verb in pop culture, which is not surprising since our product is centered around people, their communities, their spaces, and their passions. They make our brand cooler, and the storytelling possibilities are endless.
Skift: What, in your opinion, are the challenges of private accommodations as they are today, and how do you want to solve them?
Greeley: We have the right home for almost anyone, but candidly, it’s often too hard to find. The Airbnb community is broad and diverse with more than 5 million places to stay. So, in February, we announced our “Airbnb for Everyone” roadmap. We announced that we are helping guests better navigate property types such as entire homes, private rooms, and shared spaces to help connect every guest to their perfect home.
In terms of progress, and overall adoption of private accommodations, I would point us to our success with Airbnb for Work. With almost 700,000 companies booking Airbnb for business travel in the past year, Airbnb for Work is changing how today’s workforce hits the road. This success speaks to our increased ability to help navigate unique and high-quality inventory — which is one of our competitive differentiators.
Skift: What has response to Airbnb Plus been thus far this year?
Greeley: Airbnb Plus was created after learning from some of Airbnb’s best hosts and how they welcome guests to their homes. So many of our hosts go above and beyond and this program was created to celebrate and recognize them, helping them stand out and earn more. It also caters for those guests looking for that added assurance over the quality of where they stay.
Since launching Airbnb Plus earlier this year, the response from both hosts and guests has been overwhelmingly positive and we see enormous potential here. Hosts that join the program are seeing a significant boost in earnings. Guests appreciate the extra touches and thoughtfulness that Plus hosts are going to and we see very high occupancy rates for Plus homes.
We are working hard to continue to scale the verification process and are pleased to be able to expand the program to even more cities globally during the second half of 2018.
Skift: Can you give us an update on Airbnb Superguest, the loyalty program? Is that being piloted now and when will it launch? What will make it different from other loyalty programs out there? How does Airbnb plan to make the program work with millions of different hosts?
Greeley: In February this year, we announced our intention to recognize, reward and inspire all guests as part of the world’s best travel membership program — something we’ve been calling “Superguest.” While I don’t have anything to formally announce just yet, I can tell you we are working hard to bring this to life, and will have more to share soon.
In the same way that Airbnb has revolutionized travel, our loyalty program will be unlike anything else in the market. We want to move beyond cold and transactional systems to create a program that reflects our unique position as a global community, rewarding not only travel on Airbnb, but engagement within the community.
Similar to how our Superhost program recognizes our most hospitable hosts, Superguest will celebrate and recognize our most engaged travelers.
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Photo credit: Greg Greeley, president of homes for Airbnb, will be speaking at the upcoming Skift Global Forum in New York City on Sept. 27. Airbnb