Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky has ambitious summer plans for his seven-year-old Sharing Economy startup. Currently, 500,000 people are Airbnb-ing a night. Chesky, as TechCrunch reported, announced at the Code tech conference in May that he’s shooting for one million guests-per-night by summer.
The young exec, however, isn’t just thinking about growth in terms of heads on pillows. He wants Airbnb to become the go-to source for affordable accommodations, last-minute crash pads and weekend-long sex romps. As TechCrunch put it, Chesky wants Airbnb “to own all experiences around a vacation.”
How does a company own vacations and the experiences around them? During his presentation at Code, Chesky said:
“Let’s say you get off a plane in Paris. People don’t go to cities to stay in homes,” [Chesky] told [moderator] Kara Swisher onstage. “They go to cities to have an experience. What would you want in Paris?”
“A French person yelling at me,” joked Swisher.
“Okay, imagine that you can do it on demand.”
In Chesky's vision, Airbnb will help travelers go a step beyond standard-fare trip planning. Rather than consulting travel agents, devouring Lonely Planet guides or thumbing through earmarked Bill Bryson paperbacks, Airbnb members will curate their global jaunts to the Instagrammable nth degree — through Chesky's platform.
On-demand cultural authenticity seems like a contradiction in terms, and I’d take a hard pass on traveling with anyone who disagrees. But, I also wouldn’t bet against the Airbnb team. Like the seemingly unstoppable Uber, what Airbnb wants, Airbnb gets. If they want to own my experiences, they probably will. After all, as TechCrunch pointed out, Chesky and his crew had a hard time selling their vision back in 2007.
In February, the company was valued at $13 billion, roughly half of Marriott’s value cap.