Airbnb says it intends to stay true to its founding principals of experience-driven travel delivered by people despite moving into providing more mass-market hotel product.
Jeroen Merchiers, general manager Europe and Russia at the peer-to-peer pioneer, said 70% of the site’s inventory remains unique to it.
He said where the site is offering more conventional hotel accommodation to its core millennial audience as it grows and has families, it will always offer an “experiential layer”.
Airbnb has started to curate its inventory into specific categories like properties ideal for business travellers or families and is expanding its hotel offering as it moves towards a full-service future.
“There is definitely a market for more mass market product. It’s a fine line between offering what people are looking for a retaining our DNA.
“We want to make sure that what sets apart is it’s experience driven and experiences are provided by people, with our experience layer we can put on top of that.
“We want to make sure that everyone is finding what they are looking for on Airbnb. Our UI sets us apart, our consumer experience, our reviews experience or booking.
“We are looking at the overall trip, the overall experience. What are some of the other touchpoints whether you are staying for business or leisure, we can provide other aspects of the trip.
“If you look at the core of everything we do, it’s still people-powered. 72% of our inventory listing is unique to Airbnb. That’s how we have grown. That’s what we need to treasure.”
Merchiers added that 80% of listing on the site remain individually owned by someone who is renting out either their primary or secondary property.
He added 53% of its hosts say the income from Airbnb helps them pay their rent or mortgage.
“We do not want to be a community,” added Merchiers. “We want to be a community-driven brand. What we do well is word of mouth.
“We don’t have the budgets to invest in marketing like other brands. We want people to continue talking about brands in a positive way.”
Asked about Airbnb’s business model and the commission levels it is offering hotels to use the site Merchiers this was “variable” depending on volumes.
“We have seen that the hotels are looking for diversification of channels. They have had dependency on very few channels. If it’s a better cost, all the better. How big will be it, it’s hard to say.”
Merchiers said Airbnb was constantly testing its model of commissions to hotels and the customer fees it charges.
And he said the site will provide more filters as it helps its users find what they are looking for.
“As we grow up and throughout that whole evolution from home sharing to accommodation to travel site, it becomes harder to find exactly what you are looking for.
“This is one of the things we want make easier. We want to provide clarity to what exactly you want. We have all the data but it was not structured.”
Airbnb’s Plus standard is based on a checklist of 100 points, while its Lux product range is assessed against 250 points.
“People do not refer you if they do not feel it’s going to add value to them. You won’t refer someone if something happens and you were not really entirely happy with the experience.
“We are not optimising purely for transactions, we are optimising for trust. Virality is something that goes with it, it’s something that sets us apart,” added Merchiers who said Airbnb’s Net Promoter Score was “incredibly high” for the hospitality industry.
Airbnb is still considering its future in terms of expanding to offer flights as it has said it eventually intends to do, but is “doubling down”on experiences, said Merchiers.
“Our growth rates are still above 50%. With the size we are I’m not worried about growth. Obviously the per cent will slow down as we get bigger but absolute numbers are still going to rise,” he said.