Nathan Blecharczyk, Airbnb
"There’s an opportunity to lean into these changing trends that we’re seeing, and frankly to gain market share and be even more mainstream."
Quote from Nathan Blecharczyk, Airbnb co-founder and chief strategy officer, in an article on PhocusWire this week on the company's platform updates.
Each Friday, PhocusWire dissects and debates an industry trend or new development covered by PhocusWire that week.
The dictionary definition of the word "mainstream" is as follows: "Ideas, attitudes, or activities that are shared by most people and regarded as normal or conventional."
In the travel sector, mainstream companies - as noted in Airbnb co-founder's recent comments above - could refer to brands that both target the widest audience or provide the widest range of products and services.
The pandemic inevitably put a stop to many a brand's ambitions, as they hunkered down for a prolonged period with little business to speak of and the brake pedal placed firmly on strategic business development.
It's worth remembering that Airbnb has been attempting to place itself in the mainstream for quite some time, rather than it trying to do so as part of some kind of new strategy now.
COVID-19 ended that - for the time being.
In early 2018, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky signalled a big shift in its ambitions away from challenging the hotel sector for business by stating that its competition was going to Expedia and Booking.com.
Perhaps the company's first significant move into the mainstream of the online bookign world since its formation in 2008.
This concided with a launch into hotel distribution anyway, initially through a deal with SiteMinder and then other channel management services.
More products in the arsenal of services came with the launch of Experiences - both single-day and eventually multi-day - and by early 2019 the biggest move into the mainstream yet was revealed when former CEO of Virgin America, Fred Reid, was hired with some degree of fanfare to lead its "transportation" division.
Reid departed quietly in November last year - not surprising given Airbnb's focus on a resurgent private accommodation and the rush toward its IPO in December.
So the new aim to be "even more mainstream" will be a curious one, both for Airbnb and its competitors.
It may well just simply ressurect the ideas from the pre-pandemic period and also give equal weight to Experiences and hotel distribution as it is currently doing with vacation rentals.
Or is there something else? The "mainstream" players - those previously stated "competitors" - certainly have more in their product portfolio than Airbnb currently has.
But, equally, Airbnb doesn't seem like the kind of brand that would shift into similar areas, such as car rental, packaging, flights, insurance and many more.
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