Airbnb produced an event, the Airbnb Open, focused on the short-term rental site's host community, both showcasing the company's capacious new offices and some specific inspiring stories of the website's hosts.
Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky took the stage to share the site's genesis story, and incredible growth since launch.
The co-founder also highlighted the fact that hosts are a new segment of small business, saying that hosts are "people as businesses," and "micro-entrepreneurs" providing hospitality experiences as a new breed of business owners. He mentioned the struggles that the company was having with NYC regulators, leaving hosts to fill in the lines as far as what this regulatory landscape means for their own individual communities.
The not-so-subtle suggestion here is that local laws must be changed to more adequately reflect this new segment of society - and that hosts must begin to rally together to make a force to be reckoned with.
The company claims 350,000 hosts worldwide, and had 350 local hosts in attendance. The company is focusing on building this community further while increasing the overall hospitality standards across the world's host properties.
Beyond the requisite feel-good videos and brand-building chutzpah, here are some of the key components of the first live event for the company.
Community-driven hospitality company
Chip Conley, of Joie de Vivre and current Head of Hospitality, then came to the stage to showcase how the company is dedicating resources to increasing the actual hospitality on the website - the Hospitality Center.
Conley announced Airbnb's new Hospitality Standards, and that he will be going on a hospitality road trip around the world to teach hosts these new standards, mentioning the host that recently told him "being a better host makes me a better human."
Here's the breakdown of the standards the company will now be pushing hosts to consider and implement:
The company is also not-so-gently pushing hosts to offer more value and personality to the experience, and thus anticipate a traveler's needs. Adding the "special touch" is the "soul of the experience, and that makes it transformational," says Chesky.
The review system is also being tweaked to more fully showcase the best hosts, including a relaunch of the SuperHost program in 2014. The user/host review process is also evolving to honor those hosts who are doing the best job at creating memorable experiences for travelers.
The main message here is that Airbnb is retrenching as a "community-driven hospitality company." It was mentioned repeatedly, and the company seems to think that the best way to make that happen is to focus explictly on the experience created by the hosts and to facilitate host success on the platform.
The company clearly sees the value in sharing the stories of hosts on the platform, as they can be very visible voices in the process to make Airbnb rentals legal in communities where they aren't.
In this bid to share the stories of the hosts, Airbnb has launched their Stories page. This is where hosts can talk more about what they are doing, who they are and what makes their experience special. The company calls this "a natural part of their mission."
More on community
The importance of the Airbnb host community was paramount in this live event. By increasing the quality and commitment of the hosts, including supporting the host community in new ways, the company is hoping to improve the guest experience - and ultimately increase revenue as the experience becomes more memorable and consistent for travelers.
The community is being catalyzed around this idea, as Head of Community Douglas Atkin took the stage to discuss further.
Atkin focused on hosts doing "even more imaginative things" and "making more memorable experiences for guests." This is all in the vein of defining Airbnb as a "community-driven hospitality platform."
The brand proposition here is to create "the world's greatest source of hospiality" by building "the world we want to see is where travelers don't feel like they are strangers anywhere in the world. Wherever they go, they will feel at home. This expertise is locked up in 350,00 hosts, and now it's time to unlock that and release it to the world."
This prefaced the announcement of Groups for Hosts, sub-groups focused on hosts sharing different areas of travel - from geography to style of travel, these groups come together to connect hosts and share best practices that ultimately affect the guest experience.
HostHome - a re-imagined mobile experience for new consumption habits
The company has reimagined the mobile experience, calling it the way that the majority of guests will book stays and how hosts will manage their listings. The new mobile product is called HostHome on iOS and Android, and is available now for download.
The new interface is much more streamlined, and offers access to messages, booking requests and reservations for hosts, while also offering a very slick interface for travelers looking for a place to stay. The mobile experience is something they are clearly pushing resources into, as it has a fully re-imagined way for people to interact on the platform.
It also provides a more responsive host community for potential travelers, including a fully-functional experience akin to the company's website.
Host Rewards program
Chesky announced a new program for 2014 that will reward the platform's most prolific hosts. Travel credit, perks and other privileges will be offered up to hosts in order to continue to encourage the best practices and increased hospitality standards showcased earlier in the presentation.
The company also highlighted its new HQ in San Francisco by opening it up to hosts. Chesky has invited anyone who is in town to drop in and participate in the community there.
NB: Author is an Airbnb host.