Airbnb is “not afraid” of professional holiday-let landlords using its site and has admitted “some of its best hosts” offer multiple properties.
Christopher Cederskog, Airbnb regional manager for Europe, told the World Tourism Forum in Lucerne last week: “We don’t distinguish on a day-to-day basis between those who are professionals and those who are not.”
He insisted: “The vast majority of our hosts are not professional landlords – 90% of our hosts rent out [rooms] for less than 100 days a year. If they were professionals, they would not make money doing that.”
But Cederskog conceded: “Some of our best hosts have five to six properties.
“We are not afraid of professionals using the platform. We look at the level of service. The more important thing is whether the service is good [and] we think it is possible to offer good service only with about three properties [on Airbnb].”
Cederskog rejected the suggestion that the accommodation-sharing site had become “more transactional” after one Airbnb user described being handed the keys to an apartment on arrival in a city and being told: “Here are the keys, here are the rules, pay an extra fee for cleaning.”
“We noticed we were growing possibly a little too quickly in 2012-13,” he said. “We took steps in 2013-14 to let hosts know what we expect of them. We ask people why they get into it [renting out rooms] and use natural-language filtering on their reasons. ‘We want to make money’ responses have gone down over the past two years.”
Cederskog also rejected a suggestion about a lack of safety or security. He said: “Airbnb is one of the most transparent and safest sites. You can’t interact with Airbnb as a user or host without being registered. You can’t operate if not safe and secure.”
He said Airbnb would not have grown so explosively without the financial meltdown and housing crisis, but insisted it was wrong to believe the site competed only on price.
Cederskog told the forum: “All companies have a huge element of luck. For Airbnb, it was the financial crisis and the housing crisis that had a huge impact. A lot of people found themselves with mortgages they could not afford. They put up rooms on Airbnb to make some rent.”
The key to the platform’s explosive growth was “a fundamental shift in the way the consumer works”, he said. “The consumer is changing. People want to experience what a city is truly like. This is the biggest, fundamental change. Consumers want to experience a city feeling they can be part of it, that they can belong anywhere.”
He added: “Technology has been essential, but what is most important is solving consumer needs. Smartphones have been a driver for us. Tied to the smartphone is the prevalence of social networks. Plus, we have been able to plug into global payments and content delivery. The timing has been fortunate. Ten years ago, it would have been difficult to build Airbnb.
“[Now] we see very strong growth [and] Europe is 50% of our business. Marriott wanted to add 20,000 rooms last year. We added 20,000 rooms in one-and-a-half weeks.” But he added: “We still aren’t a big player.”