While business travelers gravitate toward hotel chains, people taking personal trips tend to prefer boutique hotels with unique designs. Chronic travelers or students, however, may opt for guesthouses, hostels and other alternative accommodations. Whatever the case, finding the optimal place to stay is rarely an easy task. Founded in 2008 in San Francisco, Airbnb is a sharing service that allows property owners to rent rooms or even houses to online users. Although the company is under 10 years old, it has exhibited astonishing growth, being valued at figures that rival those of Hilton Hotels and Resorts, and continues to be a key author in the tale of the modern startup.
Before Airbnb, accommodation sharing was mostly limited to companies like Couchsurfing, a service that allows homeowners to offer their couches to travelers for free. Operating on a similar principle, Airbnb applied all the advantages of the digital era to appeal to a wider consumer base, and is going further by offering new possibilities. In the course of building their company, Airbnb’s founders learned that users were interested in more than just accommodations: they wanted the local experience.
Despite all the information provided by travel agencies and magazines, we still tend to have more faith in the advice of locals. For whatever reason, the small eatery recommended by a local looks like it serves better food. The mere idea of a hidden gem known only among the locals is enough to win our confidence, regardless of a place’s actual quality. That’s because to travelers, “local” is equated with “real” or “genuine.” Brian Chesky, one of Airbnb’s co-founders, says that “going is travel, but living is a deeper experience.” With 2 million listings around the world, Airbnb’s greatest asset is the local experience, or a “more authentic” travel experience.