Airbnb is less “home sharing” and more “home renting,” which could be both a blessing and a curse.
Airbnb’s original pitch sounded more like couchsurfing: a way for local residents to make some extra cash by renting out otherwise idle rooms or beds in their homes.
But in most of the top Airbnb cities, a majority of listings are for an “entire home,” meaning they’re more likely managed by hosts who live in a second home somewhere (possibly outside that city) or by commercial property management companies.
That dynamic has fueled criticism that Airbnb’s bigger impact has been in converting potential long-term rentals into pricier short-term rentals, driving up rent and primarily benefiting visitors and property owners over local residents (at least some research seems to back that argument up).
City officials (and the incumbent hotel industry) have also argued that these types of “professional” hosts are essentially operating hotels without being subject to the same regulations.
In response, they’re increasingly cracking down on listings that offer entire homes, are rented a majority of the year, or have hosts who don’t live there. That may explain why the only top Airbnb cities where the share of entire home listings is declining, Barcelona and New York City according to InsideAirbnb, are both cities that have taken regulatory action against short-term rentals in recent years.
At the same time, as Airbnb tries to address safety issues and convince more traditional travelers to choose its platform, it may actually be a smart business move to provide a certain level of standardization, something professional hosts — and hotels — offer.
Those growing pains present an “identity crisis” for the company in terms of both its business strategy and culture, Dennis Schaal, executive editor at travel industry news site Skift, told Business Insider in an interview.
“You want things to be professional in terms of the quality of the stay,” Schaal said, “but will Airbnb lose its soul in the process?”
For now, Airbnb seems committed to trying to accomplish both — become more professionalized and stay true to its roots — expanding further into areas like hotels and property management services as well as offering custom experiences and trips.