We know that when great vision is paired with great execution, there is enormous room to make social, economic, and environmental impacts. And that is exactly what we’re witnessing from Airbnb. To those that may not know, Airbnb is a platform that helps travelers find alternative lodging options. It connects users to a listing of homes, condos, and apartment units acting as hotel-substitutes – with most being rented out at a cheaper rate.
Since their launch into the Chicago market in 2009, the masses have been opening their doors to strangers. In doing so, they have not only disrupted the travel industry much like how Uber has done to transportation, but they have quickly covered Chicago’s 70 neighborhoods with an Airbnb quilt.
In fact, Airbnb’s rise to the powerhouse that it is today is incredible. This infographic showcases the company’s climb from its humble beginnings in 2007 (two guys renting out air mattresses) to its towering $10 Billion valuation in 2014 (soon to be $20 Billion).
The Social Impact
But who exactly are these kindhearted souls handing over their spare keys to the frequent out-of-towner?
Well, statistically speaking:
- The average host is 39 years old.
- A quarter earn less than $50,000 a year.
- 20% work in education and health services sectors (the most popular category according to the report). That is followed by 15% in professional and business services, 14% in art, design, and creative services, and 11% in leisure and hospitality.
- 80% rent out their primary residence with the majority (60%) renting out the entire unit. The other fraction (36%) rent out a private room, while the remainder (4%) share a room.
And between July 2014 and June 2015, this quilted patchwork of 4,550 Chicagoans hosted as many as 165,800 guests – 25% of them being international. Many of these guests however have similar motives. Next to deep-dish pizzas and pictures with a certain bean, many of today’s tourists are just looking for a unique experience. They simply want to live like locals, to get a true sense of what it feels like to have a Chicago doormat.
In fact, Airbnb’s recent partnership with real estate giant, Realtor.com, allows for just that. While surfing real estate properties to actually purchase, consumers can now peruse Airbnb listings in the surrounding area and even book a night or two to experience the neighborhood before moving there. By holding a “trial period” at an Airbnb, many are now able to get a true community feel before making any life-changing decisions.
Additionally, an added beauty is that hosts do not mind opening up their doors to foreign faces. In fact, they get excited to do so. Hosts love being able to meet and share stories with people from across the globe. The Airbnb experience has evolved into a grid of real time connections that is unveiling the world one conversation at a time. Through this platform, Chicago is building communities, encouraging cultural exchange, and toughening empathy and understanding.
“The best part of the Airbnb experience has been learning about different countries and cultures. I’ve been able to host people from Taiwan, India, West Africa, Mexico, Central China, and several other countries – and it has been wonderful! Being able to learn about other people’s lives and experiences is a value above any monetary benefit one could have. I’ve literally made friends through Airbnb and met people that I genuinely care for. This has been a wonderful experience!” -Chicago Airbnb Host
The Economic Impact
But it’s not all just one large game of networking. Hosts have funneled themselves to Airbnb because of their common interest of pocketing a little extra cash. Over the past 6 years, Airbnb has helped many Chicago residents make ends meet. The typical Airbnb host nets $8,300 after renting out his or her apartment 77 nights per year – or just over 6 nights per month. Although a modest sum, this income has helped over half of users pay their mortgage.
And the far reaching distribution of bed & breakfasts has also supported the economies of many Chicago neighborhoods that normally would not see such income. We did mention Chicago has 70 neighborhoods, right? With such geographic diversity comes cultural diversity. Airbnb visitors look to explore places outside River North and the Loop’s well-defined concentration of hotels. And as a consequence, business thrives in proximal towns.
The Environmental Impact
Remarkably, Airbnb’s business model has also been able to make Chicago a little greener in the process. By helping Chicagoans share their homes, Airbnb supports the efficient use of existing resources and encourages a more environmentally sustainable mode of traveling. As a result, Airbnb has quantitatively seen reductions in energy and water use as well as a cut in greenhouse gas emissions and waste. This type of travel is bringing greener pastures to Chicago and cities alike.
It’s exciting to see how one company’s vision for how people could travel has not only changed an entire industry, but is helping cities prosper and grow on the backs of the residents that live there!
Until next time…Keep It Real!