Jeroen Merchiers, managing director, EMEA, Airbnb
Jeroen Merchiers joined Airbnb in 2012, assuming the role of managing director, EMEA, in 2017. At Phocuswright Europe 2019, he will take part in an executive interview with PhocusWire editor in chief Kevin May.
In a series of interviews with executives participating at the event in Amsterdam in May, PhocusWire finds out what makes them tick...
Why isn't the travel startup survival rate higher than it is?
There is so much opportunity in the travel industry. We are seeing more discerning travelers flood the market, seeking increasingly diverse and authentic experiences. And with this demand brings opportunity, especially for new companies approaching travel in a fresh and inspiring way.
But the industry is also complex and competitive, and it's difficult to grow and compete at scale. I am keeping my eye on some interesting travel technology projects that are starting to challenge the status quo and get us thinking in a different way.
When was the last time you spoke to one of your customers, and why?
Airbnb’s customers are its community and at the very centre of the Airbnb experience. I travel frequently for business and also occasionally on holiday so there is rarely a week that I am not speaking to our community, booking an Airbnb listing and arranging my travel.
I always like to do this myself so I can stay in touch with both the community and the guest experience. I also attend community events as much as I can to stay connected with what’s top of mind for them and how we can help.
Do you agree with the often-used phrase, "travel planning is broken"?
I do think travel planning could be improved. Most travelers want a dream holiday and will invest time to make that happen. However, there are now so many different ways of researching holidays that it becomes overwhelming and incredibly time intensive. I think travelers want to plan, but they want to visit less websites and want to be able to trust the information they are reading.
Who is the person you most admire within your company?
I am regularly inspired by the work that we do every day across the business. We move at such a fast pace and I am impressed by the huge talent and expertise in my team but also in the wider business.
But undoubtedly, the people I admire most are from our community. I know that sounds like a typical response but I applaud the entrepreneurial spirit of our community and the broad and diverse motivation they all have to share their homes, create experiences or build inspirational businesses.
What can be done to make the travel industry more diverse in terms of race and gender in senior positions?
Travel brings communities and cultures together, and the industry is perfectly placed to foster diversity and encourage greater inclusion in the workplace. Airbnb has a proactive recruitment strategy to encourage more diversity for all job opportunities whether that’s for senior or junior roles.
How much of your time do you try to keep unscheduled?
Not enough. I’d like to factor more flexibility into my day.
How do you adapt to your environment when traveling?
I regularly have to fly long haul for my job, in particular to visit HQ in San Francisco, and I have a good routine now to help combat jet lag and keep my mind fresh. I always go for a run on arrival through the streets of San Francisco. Not just because the steep hills keep me very fit, but also because it helps me connect to the city and prevents me from feeling like I’m just in another meeting room. I do like to explore the neighborhood and speak to my host as much as possible.
Aisle, middle or window seat?
Aisle when available.
What book do you recommend to others and why?
This is difficult as I do read a lot but I choose different books for different moments in time. I would read novels on holiday but would probably choose a business-related book when I’m in the middle of an intensive work cycle to keep me focused on what matters. I was recently inspired and motivated by How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
What's your morning routine?
I’m a morning person, so I try to organize my day to avoid lots of meetings in the morning and instead focus on decision making and reflection at that time. I always wake up early and review my schedule for the day and try very hard to have breakfast with my kids every morning - it helps me stay connected to their daily lives and also keeps me on my toes!
What gives you energy?
I work out regularly, which sounds like a cliche, but it definitely works! I also enjoy speaking to passionate people - that can be fellow colleagues, an Airbnb host, a really good friend or even an industry contact. I find that the energy from passionate and motivated people helps me transform ideas into reality.
Executive Interview: Airbnb
Airbnb is redefining itself, expanding into new businesses while maintaining its core proposition. Explore what's new for the hospitality giant in Europe and beyond.