Airbnb has laid out an updated series of public policies for the home-sharing service intended to tackle the challenges of the modern world through the promotion of healthy travel and tourism.
The company's head of global policy and public affairs, Chris Lehane shared a 158-card deep deck which accompanied the policy call where Airbnb identified three global challenges facing us (climate, automation, and conflict).
It also asserted that technology has a responsibility to address these as “a global citizen”. The answer, Airbnb says lies in promoting an “Open World” with travel, exploration and understanding overcoming isolationist and populist dogma.
Tasked with delivering on the “Open World” is the Airbnb Office of Healthy Tourism. The Office will foster initiatives that drive economic growth, empower destinations to raise their profile, and support socially, economically and ecologically sustainable tourism.
As Lehane explains:
“Travel and tourism is now 10% of the global economy and growing faster than rest of the economy. One in five jobs in 2017 tracks back to travel and tourism. It’s growing faster than the rest of the economy around 4.6% versus 3%, from a global perspective. It’s projected that 100 million jobs will be generated through travel and tourism over the next ten years.
“We certainly believe that travel plays an important role in society at large. We talk about the concept of open world travel, the concept of promoting an open world. We do believe that we can leverage the inherent design of and nature of our platform to ensure that travel and tourism continues to expand and grow.
“We are working and seeking to democratize the benefits of travel and tourism so that as many people as possible benefit from the economics and continue to grow in this economic sector. To project outward, the growth of travel and tourism is expected to actually accelerate a growing middle class in emerging economies like Latin America, China, India, and Africa.
“By 2030 almost 60% of all travel will be taking place in emerging economies. As we think about travel and tourism, we think about something like junk food versus healthy food, mass travel versus healthy travel. To us, there are really five ingredients that our office of healthy tourism will help encourage, drive, and support that version of healthy travel: is it local, is it authentic, is it diverse, is it inclusive, and is it sustainable.”
Airbnb data SWAT team
To track and promote these five specific elements of healthy travel and tourism, Airbnb is putting together a data sharing strategy with global destinations which will help them develop tourism strategies that meet their local needs.
Lehane describes an Airbnb “data SWAT team” which would “swoop in” offering cities and countries the data they need to inform their tourism strategy and said that Airbnb would leverage its own world class marketing support to promote destinations. Airbnb will also offer data and support which might help destinations qualify for major events, as it did for the Olympics in Rio and in Japan, as well as other locations.
In these cases, Airbnb data helps substantiate that there is adequate occupancy to host guests without requiring the building of new hotel facilities which might later be underused.
Airbnb will continue partnerships with NGOs which would also inform considerations of the social and environmental impact of rising tourism in markets around the world, sharing that information with destination partners.
The company announced that, as part of its commitment to transparency, it was releasing data on the positive impact of healthy tourism for the top 300 cities and 80 countries/regions around the world.
Some highlights include:
- 88% of Airbnb hosts around the world are incorporating environmentally friendly practices into hosting
- 43% of Airbnb hosting income is used to pay for regular household expenses
- 6% of hosts used their Airbnb income to start a new business
- 53% of guests spent the money they saved using Airbnb at businesses in the cities and neighborhoods they visited
- 44% of guest spending happens in the neighborhoods where they stay
- 79% of guests who chose Airbnb because they wanted to live like a local
- 66% of guests said the environmental benefits of home sharing were important in their choice of Airbnb.
- 89% of guests said that they chose Airbnb because it was more conveniently located throughout the city than hotels
Lehane shares case studies where it has already had success promoting healthy travel and tourism and touted the company’s commitment to contributing to local economies through taxes paid and collaboration with regulators.
He also says the company is exploring ways to mark Airbnb listings in a way that highlights their healthy travel and tourism profile, though the exact way in which that would be reflected in the app is still to be determined. Lehane suggests that it might be something akin to designating hosts on the app who offer a liveable wage to cleaners; an initiative Airbnb implemented in North America through a collaboration with the National Domestic Workers Alliance.
The mandate of the Airbnb Office of Healthy Tourism is ambitious, with a broad scope that will likely help the residence sharing application gain greater acceptance in contentious markets around the globe. It is lofty, and intended to appeal to travelers who are concerned over the impact of their wanderlust on the planet and on the many cities and towns they want to explore.
“We do not see ourselves being the answer, but we want to be part of the solution.”