Airbnb Goes Public

Airbnb forever transformed how we conceptualize the travel experience. With an IPO scheduled for this month, the company continues to stimulate changes to the hospitality industry as a whole. As our partner, we wanted to let our readers know our thoughts on the company that has shaped the landscape we find ourselves in – what we like, how we imitate and what we can both do better. 

Paving the Way for a New Future of Hospitality 

Airbnb’s simple mission – to instigate a sense of belonging anywhere in the world – has opened the world’s eyes to the future of hospitality and travel. As a result of their vision, millions of hosts earn a living through this now common means of travel, while millions of guests now happily experience what it actually feels like to live in a community they may have only experienced as a tourist. 

As Airbnb plans to go public, I felt the time was prudent to share my thoughts on growing a business within the ecosystem that Airbnb has developed over the past 12 years. I also want to touch on areas within the industry that are in need of change, especially if we want to restructure the negative narrative short term rentals sometimes hold in communities.  

I believe it is time for the leaders in this ecosystem to create a more positive vision for the future of short term rentals, one that takes into consideration the communities in which we operate.  

I also believe deeply in the sharing economy, especially when sharing assets vs our time, and want to touch on how I believe this ecosystem of sharing differs and has more potential than the sharing economy built around drivers and transportation.  There are clear differences why I believe the sharing economy for hospitality allows those of us that operate in the ecosystem clear paths towards upward mobility that just do not exist within the ride sharing economy for drivers. 

The Covid Pivot 

Like all rental hosts, Airbnb faced an extremely tough situation when the pandemic hit. Choose to cancel rentals and you’d make many hosts angry. Choose to let each cancellation policy stand, and deal with the ramifications of a public health crisis spiraling out of control. Airbnb undoubtedly had their back against the wall. I can only speak for myself, but I think Brian Chesky’s decision to put the public’s health ahead of all else was the correct action to take.  It wasn’t easy to watch as every guest canceled, but it did allow for us to free up our calendar and make space to host travelers that were stranded for the foreseeable future.  

Many hosts like ourselves had a tough couple of months, but it is decisions like this that allowed us hosts to prepare our homes for the new normal, a safer new normal. We needed that time and understanding of the virus to ensure our future guests could stay with us safely.  And Airbnb’s pivot has worked, as travelers have overwhelmingly flocked to short term rentals over hotels during the pandemic.   

As with any fruitful partnership, there are many reasons to celebrate the success of the company that drove short term rentals to become one of the largest sectors of the hospitality industry. But there are still some improvements to be made for both Airbnb, ourselves and other hospitality leaders. 

Hotels vs. Short Term Rentals

When envisioning the future of hospitality, it definitely helps to take a look at the leaders who started it all – hotels. In my opinion, there truly is nothing like walking into a beautifully designed lobby and being able to call it home for a night or two. But beyond the fancy decor, what truly draws guests in, is the constant focus on customer experience. 

Open Air Homes has not had the same number of decades to perfect this strategy, which is why we continue to learn from them whenever we can, discovering new ways to elevate our own guests’ experiences. 

At Open Air Homes, we do not believe the future of hospitality is solely dependent on short term rentals nor do we accept a world that limits the customer’s possibilities for travel by outright banning short term rentals from existing in cities. We do not see the hotel industry as the enemy, but instead respect them for their commitment to service and hospitality, especially in such a trying time in our world. The future of any great city has a combination of hotels, homeowners, hostels, long term renters, and both extended stays and short term rentals.  

As Hotelier Ian Schrager has famously said, the hotel industry ought to stop hiring lobbyists to prevent short term rentals from existing, and instead look to the reasons why Airbnb has become so popular in the first place, and find ways to compete. At Open Air Homes, we believe in a world where hotels and short term rentals coexist and become value-add partners. 

We are aiming to build a trusted hospitality brand rooted in the short term rental industry. In order to build the brand we envision, we must first applaud the successes and learn from the failures of the hotel industry and our competitors.

As the CEO of Open Air Homes, I think it’s vital to point out the pitfalls and inherent blind spots of our industry, so that we can take steps to build a better future, and in the process show that we do care about the communities in which we live and operate. We must take a hard, internal look at how we can address the issue of short term rentals being a community nuisance, and invest the necessary resources to coexist peacefully with neighbors. 

In this five part blog series that will be published in the coming 10 days, we will touch on how the short term industry must evolve in order to be better neighbors, and how at Open Air Homes we are looking towards the hotel and hospitality industry for the lessons already learned that will make us better hosts to our valued guests.  We would love to hear from you how you would like to see our industry change and adapt in the post-covid world, and we look forward to the Open Air Homes blog becoming a space where we can share ideas and grow together as a quickly evolving industry.

By Brad Greiner