Q and A with Cameron Houser Airbnb

Airbnb has been trying to make its intentions clear to hoteliers: The hotel industry—boutique properties (more than 24,000 are available on the platform) and B&Bs (more than 180,000 are listed on Airbnb), in particular—is part of the home-sharing platform’s community. Earlier this year, Airbnb, in collaboration with SiteMinder, launched a new platform to enable properties to connect booking information to existing management systems in real time. Couple this initiative and the platform’s recent restructuring with potentially paralyzing OTA fees, and Airbnb believes it has the solution for this segment.

Hotel Business turned to Cameron Houser, hotels program manager at Airbnb, to learn more about her role at the home-sharing platform, ask why Airbnb gets a bad rap with the hotel industry and find out how Airbnb plans to evolve in the coming years.

Describe the role of hotels program manager at Airbnb. What do you do on a day-to-day basis? What should the lodging industry know about your position? While there has been organic growth in boutique hotels on Airbnb, a few months ago, we began rolling out a dedicated product to support these hosts and guests. By expanding in this area, we’re giving greater choice, more transparency and helping hosts stand out and guests better find what they’re looking for.

In terms of my role, first and foremost, my job is helping Airbnb get to know hotels and B&Bs better, and hotels and B&Bs get to know Airbnb better. From there, I can help inform product changes, work with technology and association partners, and put together our operational processes for working with hotels.

Why is it important for Airbnb to partner with smaller hotels and B&Bs? What’s in it for Airbnb, and what’s in it for small hospitality businesses? We’re a community-driven platform. Airbnb wants to see our hotel and B&B partners succeed. Though we are just starting our program, we are very interested in having as much feedback to build the product that hotels most want to see.

Many potential guests on Airbnb did not find what they were looking for last year. While this might be due to a number of factors, our research shows that many people are looking for something a bit more hotel-like, but still with an intimate, community feel and hosted experience. We believe the segment of hotels and B&Bs we are most excited about will deliver exactly what these travelers are hoping to find.

Why is Airbnb often viewed negatively by the hotel industry? Where’s the miscommunication? Why should the industry look at Airbnb as a partner instead of a competitor? We treat all of our hosts like partners, not commodities. We’ve heard from boutique hotel owners and B&Bs who are eager to learn more about Airbnb and access our global network of hosts and guests in more than 191 countries.

Why should hotels advertise on the Airbnb platform? Hotels and B&Bs have always listed on Airbnb. We added a boutique hotel category and watched it grow nearly 20% every month completely organically, at which point we realized that we needed to make some improvements to be sure that these hosts felt like they belonged.

Additionally, many millions of guests visited Airbnb last year and did not book with us. For whatever reason, they were not able to find what they were looking for, though we assumed they didn’t just cancel their holidays. By making our platform easier to use for hotels and B&Bs, we are truly providing accommodations for everyone.

What are some of the biggest challenges in the hospitality industry today? How will Airbnb assist hotels with these challenges? The travel industry is massive and has been growing every year since Airbnb was formed. There are many different types of travelers looking for many different types of experiences, and we think there’s room and demand for all types of hospitality. By opening our platform to hotels and B&Bs, we believe we can help them avoid the crippling fees of OTAs and reach a new audience of traveler that’s booking through Airbnb.

We are incredibly optimistic about this effort and are constantly taking feedback from our community and using it to improve the products we are working on.

I mentioned previously that our research shows many people are looking for something a bit hotel-like, but with an intimate, community feel and hosted experience. This is at the core of what we’re doing at Airbnb.

How do you see Airbnb evolving with the hotel industry? I can’t predict the future, but what I can tell you is that, at this time, we are very focused on making sure we are putting the right product and features together, so we can better champion the hotels and B&Bs excited to work with us. We are honored to have the opportunity to serve these amazing properties and their guests.

What do you have planned in 2018?

Right now, we are working really hard to take as much feedback as possible to make Airbnb the very best travel platform we can—including feedback from hotels and B&Bs.

As I look to the future, my focus will be on continuing to make sure we are delivering on our promise to have something for everyone, and that will mean not only helping guests find what they want, but helping hosts—like hotels and B&Bs—have a great experience hosting with us.

Ten years ago, we created a new phenomenon in travel, offering a local, unique and authentic way to travel as an alternative to commoditized mass tourism. Looking forward to the next 10 years, we want everyone to be able to experience this way of traveling—and we’re setting ourselves on a path to more than one billion guests a year on Airbnb in 10 years’ time. HB