In an exclusive interview, Nathan Blecharczyk, Airbnb’s co-founder and chief strategy officer, spoke to ITB Berlin News about key markets a decade of impressive expansion. We started by asking about the accommodation group’s recent rapid growth.
Airbnb is in 81,000 different cities. We have 4.5 million homes already. The number of homes on Airbnb has grown 50% over the last year. And there is still a lot of momentum in the business. Even after 10 years, we’re still seeing remarkable growth and I’d expect to see another good year.
What about the challenge of doing business in cities like Berlin, which has banned the rental of entire apartments to tourists through Airbnb and its competitors?
In Berlin, where it has been very strict, we’re seeing positive movement. The backdrop is 400 cities around the world have changed their policies to accommodate house sharing – with guard rails of course. We certainly want to be a good partner to cities that we are building a lot of business in.
Rural stays are a growing area for Airbnb, how is business in this space?
In rural areas we have actually added capacity that really didn’t exist – in a lot of rural areas there simply are no hotels, there is no place to stay, so people are putting their homes up on Airbnb. Last year, we drove $1 billion in visitor stays across 11 countries in rural areas.
You were recently given a second title of Chairman of Airbnb China. What can you tell us about your business in China?
I spend a lot of time in China developing our business there. We have an office in Beijing with more than 150 full-time employees. China is a big, competitive market, so we’ve been investing a lot into our success there and seeing a lot of good results too, but for outbound travel (Chinese travellers spend the most on international tourism globally) the numbers are pretty staggering. China is a big opportunity, we have 175,000 homes in China.
WE ARE GOING DEEPER INTO CERTAIN KEY MARKETS
What’s next from Airbnb?
Over the last 10 years, we have served 300 million guests; looking ahead we’re thinking how can we get to a billion visitors, how do we get to those that have not used Airbnb?
We have made a series of announcements, the biggest of which is what we call Airbnb Plus, which are basically homes that are verified in-person for comfort and quality. The inspection team works to a 100-point inspection list, which includes things like the bedding, the kitchen being well-stocked, and the bathroom being clean. Airbnb Plus is now live in 13 markets and 2000 homes; over the course of the year we will expand that to 50 markets and 75,000 homes. We have seen a lot of interest amongst our host community. In the two weeks since launch, 12,000 hosts have applied to be in the Plus programme.
Airbnb Plus is aimed at those customers that want an elevated sense of certainty. We are customising what we can offer for business travellers and families.
AIRBNB PLUS IS AIMED AT THOSE CUSTOMERS THAT WANT AN ELEVATED SENSE OF CERTAINTY
What is your strategy for providing accommodation for diverse groups such as business travellers and families?
We are launching something called Col lect ions. We have the Airbnb For Work Collection and the Airbnb For Families Collection, and we’ll be launching a total of nine Collections over the course of 2018.
Each Collection has offerings tailored to that audience – for example, For Work will include things like hosts with flexible cancellation policies; self check-in, so you can arrive any time of the day or night; a desk to sit at work; and reliable Wi-Fi.
Photo: Nathan Blecharczyk co-founder and chief strategy officer, Airbnb