28 August, 2020
Some companies worked to reinvent themselves during the pandemic or adapt products and/or services to better meet new consumer needs. Others have done just the opposite and reverted back to their original purpose.
Enter AirBnB. While it’s been growing rapidly, the last few years have also seen AirBnB criticised for tax issues, inflating the housing market (did you know in parts of the UK, 1 in 4 homes is an AirBnB?) and encouraging overtourism.
Easy to conclude that AirBnB as it once was, based around couch surfing, warm hosts and authentic experiences, was set to become a distant memory
But perhaps it is coming back. In last week’s Sunday times, AirBnB founder Brian Chesky, set out how the pandemic, in which the company took a $1billion hit, has also led to the decision to go back to the beginning again. “AirBnB needs to get back to its roots, back to the basics, back to what is truly special: everyday people who host in their homes” as Chesky put it. And, making himself a Silicon Valley outsider, Chesky also raised his arms, apologised for what had gone wrong, and promised to work to undo the harm.
He’s set out some of the ways forward – getting rid of ancillary travel services (because he’s not aiming to be ‘uber of travel’), conducting a deep audit of who’s on the site to root out those who are ‘inauthentic’ (most notably large operators offering mass produced services) and trying to counter mas tourism through partnerships with smaller, less obvious destinations.
Of course saying is the easy part and the doing is hard, but Chesky has said he’s happy for profits to dive in the short term, even if it makes shareholders uneasy. And we’re all for the determination to take a path backwards in order to move the company forwards, and see it’s purpose of connecting people paving the way to the future.
By Marie Guérinet