Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Bed & Breakfast Boom

How many brands can really claim to have changed lives on a mass scale? There really aren't that many - even Facebook has probably changed behaviour more than it has changed lives en masse. I blogged about Airbnb three years ago, and unlike Facebook, it did take me a while to overcome my doubts and prejudices and become an Airbnb customer. Maybe because I sensed the enormity of the change it represented.

Airbnb has moved on in the three years since I wrote that blog, and is now 10 years old. A recent article in the Telegraph gives all sorts of facts and figures on Airbnb and its 150m customers. My own view is that what makes Airbnb not just game-changing but also life-changing is that it's not just about travel, as a brand like Uber is. It's as much about the hosts and their city as it is the travellers. Especially now that the focus is not just on homes, but on restaurants and experiences, too. Airbnb themselves claim it's about community, and it's probably true that the hosts' lives may be changed along with their guests'.

In some ways, Airbnb goes back to the days before organised travel and tourism. If you rolled up in a strange place on your trusty steed, you'd either have a letter of introduction for some distant relative, or you'd seek lodgings in the village via word-of-mouth then eavesdrop in the local hostelry as regards the Do's and Don'ts of the area. Today it's much the same, but enabled via mobile internet.

The article also questions whether, as Airbnb grows, it might lose direction or clarity. The brand has, like Facebook, suffered the onslaught of tabloid wrath when things go wrong: for every Facebook party story, there's an Airbnb trashing story. There have been protests (e.g. in Barcelona) about Airbnb and everything from huge hordes of tourists overrunning cities to more long-term worries about housing prices and affordability. Traditional hotels are jumping onto the air mattress in the spirit of can't-beat-'em-'join-'em.

Who knows? But I feel that if Airbnb stay true to their purpose and take their responsibilities seriously, they'll be here to stay (as it were.)

I just wish this had existed when I lived in Wimbledon.

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