All of us have been in the situation of searching for accommodation when travelling either abroad or inside our country of residence.
Take for example Walt and Emma, a young couple from London that wanted to spend a long weekend in Paris. Unfortunately, they did not know anybody there that they could stay with, so Emma and Walt were left with just one choice: booking a hotel room or staying at a hostel, depending on their budget. That was the case until recently.
Airbnb was founded in August 2008 and revolutionized the way people accommodate themselves. The idea behind Airbnb is simple: users can create an account in the website and list their places as potential accommodations for travelers and tourists.
The owners of the accommodations can provide photos, descriptions of their place, a checklist of amenities that are being provided (such as wireless internet connection, heating, parking, laundry service, etc.) as well as some house rules, which the guests have to follow. They also choose the price they ask for their accommodation, be it per night, per week or per month.
On the other end, accommodation seekers can navigate through the website, pick a destination and the date they are visiting and get all the listed accommodations available. They can then narrow down the results by filtering out accommodations based on a number of criteria, such as price, location, room types, amenities etc.
After their stay, both guests and owners can write a review about the owner and guest respectively and these reviews are shown in the user’s Airbnb profile. Furthermore, the guest can rate the accommodation and the owner based in six criteria (accuracy, cleanliness, check-in, communication, location and value) whose average generate an overall guest satisfaction score. In that way, both parties can choose their guests/hosts based on their ratings and avoid unpleasant surprises.
Overcoming the challenges and expanding internationally
During its course, Airbnb had to overcome some serious challenges. After the home of a host in San Francisco was vandalized by an Airbnb user (1), its CEO had to announce a number of safety measures in order to restore the trust of the community. Among these measures, was a $50,000 guarantee for the protection of the properties used by Airbnb’s guests (2). This guarantee was later increased to $1,000,000 (3).
Airbnb has managed not only to create a company that fundamentally involves active customer participation, as the customers are the ones that provide both the accommodations and the demand for them, but also to become a very popular one. As of January 2014, Airbnb had more than 500,000 accommodations listed in more than 34,000 cities and 192 countries (4). More importantly, more than 9 million people have booked their accommodation via Airbnb! The numbers are immense and show the dynamic of this simple idea.