I love Airbnb, when it's working. Having access to stay in beautiful homes all around the world, having local experiences and seeing a city through the eyes of the host, what's not to love?
But Airbnb is slipping. And here's why.
Just another booking platform
What started as a community of hosts wanting to open up their homes to visitors providing a unique and local travel experience, while at the same time making a buck from unused space, is now becoming a booking platform for investment properties, not much different than other online portals like Booking.com which also lists privately owned condos.
Branding versus reality
There is a mismatch between the story Airbnb is telling in their branding and what is the reality when it comes to the guest experiences offered on the platform. Already in 2014, over 40% of listings on the Airbnb were by hosts who offered multiple listings. An Airbnb host that offers up to 20 apartments in the same building for rent is no longer a host that cares about making you belong, but a rental agency that is looking to make a profit on their investment properties.
Why this mismatch is a problem is that I never know what to expect for my stay anymore. On the same platform with the same search I get listings for homes where the host likes to have visitors , amazing designer apartments where the owner lives somewhere else, hostel beds in investment properties where the goal is just to maximize profit, actual hotel rooms, couchsurfing like experiences and everything in between. There’s a lack of consistency on the platform and it makes me as a guest confused and highly skeptical. If Airbnb had decided that from now on, they are not about personal connections anymore but purely a marketplace for cool vacation rentals, then I’d be OK with that. But then everything else has to go. It has to be either or. Or at least, very clearly labeled in the app so I know what to expect.
I’m a big believer in curated collections. I think it’s the best way to find the good music, to find the best restaurants and to find the best travel experiences.
Airbnb of course knows this too. With the introduction of the Airbnb Plus collection of verified homes they will be able to offer some level of consistency and quality when it comes to the accommodation. With Airbnb Experiences they are showing that the feeling of Belonging doesn’t necessarily have to come from your host, but helps you get plugged into the wider local community of where you are staying.
Airbnb wants to be the go-to place for your entire trip experience, but unless they speed up the focus on quality and consistency I’m not going to be able to trust them with this major responsibility.
These companies are examples of how you can provide guests with a personalized, local and unique experience while still deliver a consistent standard that stays true to the brand.
The Kimpton high-end boutique hotel chain is like a curated collection of hotels that I know I’ll like. Now a part of the IGH group, the Kimpton brand has always been focused on providing a consistent high standard of services while letting each of their hotels tell their unique story and add their personal touch. When staying at a Kimpton hotel you know you’re going to have a great time, but you don’t know exactly how. When every experience is different but still a very safe bet, you keep coming back for more.
A startup that has caught my attention lately is the Canadian company Sonder. Their story started in a similar way to my Airbnb experience and they’re now providing a curated collection of apartments in cool neighborhoods around the world. They offer a unique homey experience, with the consistency and service of a hotel.
For those traveling with kids, Kid&Coe is a curated collection of apartments that have been verified for maximum vacation success for both big and small, at least when it comes to where to stay.
One Fine Stay
One Fine Stay is part of the AccorHotels family, joining luxury brands like Fairmont Raffles and Sofitel. They offer luxury apartments around the world with the same comforts as staying at a hotel.