Airbnb Enlists Former Hotel Exec Chip Conley As Its First Head Of Global Hospitality

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Airbnb has hired Chip Conley, founder and former CEO of boutique hotel chain Joie de Vivre, to lead new efforts to improve the guest experience by educating and creating new standards for hosts.

When I asked Conley about moving from the hotel business to Airbnb, he suggested the rental marketplace is in some ways an extension of the boutique hotel movement — a way to deliver “a localized, personal experience” to travelers.

He told me his relationship with Airbnb began several months ago, after meeting with CEO Brian Chesky and delivering a talk at the company on the hospitality industry. That talk, Conley said, made some team members say, “Wait, we want to be a hospitality company, as well as a design and tech company.” Hence the creation of a new role for him — head of global hospitality.

Conley described his new job as figuring out “how to take hundreds of thousands of hosts and help them live up to their potential.” One such effort is the planned launch this fall of nine “standards” in areas such as host response time and cleanliness. This should give everyone a clearer understanding of what’s expected — hosts can commit to meeting certain standards, then the company can look at their reviews to see if they’re actually doing it.

“It’s a challenging premise — these are not employees … these are people who are doing this on their own,” Conley said. However, he also described Airbnb hosts as “micro-entrepreneurs” and suggested they should embrace these standards as a way to create a “brand promise” to guests that they will deliver a certain level of experience.

The company is also creating a Hospitality Lab in Dublin, Ireland, which it says will be used to develop and test these kinds of ideas. The first step, Airbnb says, will be developing a educational curriculum (including online classes) around hospitality.

Why Dublin? Well, Conley noted that Europe is Airbnb’s largest market and that Dublin itself is a diverse city. (Earlier this summer, when Airbnb said it was rethinking its strategy for overseas growth, the company suggested Dublin might serve as a hub for its European efforts.)

In addition to the hiring announcement, the company is releasing some new usage numbers, saying 8.5 million guests have stayed in Airbnb accommodations and that on its peak night this summer, 175,000 were staying with Airbnb hosts around the world. Plus, 65,000 people have been able to pay for all of their Airbnb trips entirely through their earnings as hosts.