The Interview

Nathan Blecharczyk, Airbnb

Airbnb has made short-stay home rental a global business. The platform’s co-founder and chief strategy officer spoke to Ian Taylor

N 12

athan Blecharczyk greets me with the courtesy I imagine he shows Airbnb

guests at his San Francisco home, despite just coming off an overnight flight from the US and on his way to China. Te company he co-founded

recently recruited US aviation industry figure Fred Reid as its global head of transportation, so the first thing I ask is whether Airbnb is going to add flights to its platform. Blecharczyk is not saying,

insisting: “We’re very early on in this. Tere is a bunch of stuff we’re thinking about, but I can’t say [what].” And yet he has just told the

Pacific Asia Travel Association summit: “We’re not going to start an airline. Te focus will be on improving the experience.” So what experience is Airbnb

aiming to improve – the booking? He says: “If you ask [airline] travellers about their experience

30 MAY 2019

arriving or departing and look at the Net Promoter Scores of airlines [on the willingness of customers to recommend a company], they are not good. It is the least favourite part of a trip and we don’t think it has to be that way.” So? “We have ideas. I can’t speculate.” We don’t have much time, so I ask

about Airbnb’s atitude to hospitality taxes and whether its hosts pay these. He insists: “We are commited to paying all taxes hotels pay – all transient occupancy taxes. Any jurisdiction that would like us to do that, we implement that, and we’ve made it very easy. We’ve collected more than $1 billion [in taxes]. It has created a level playing field with the traditional industry.”

Clear rules Tat would work out at a maximum $2 per Airbnb guest per stay, which seems low by city-tax standards. But we move on to regulation. “To be regulated is to be recognised,” he says. “We support clear rules. So many of

our hosts are ordinary people, but they have been operating in a grey area. We don’t want our community to not know where they stand. “Every place makes its own rules

and it’s important to make sure we don’t add so much weight or so much friction as to make it difficult for ordinary people. If it’s too difficult, that is the type of person who is going to drop out. It is the professionals who fill out forms. We encourage policymakers to understand that.” He cites Japan as an example,

saying: “Japan has made it fairly difficult. Tat means more professionals [landlords on Airbnb] and there are a lot of them.”

So, are more Airbnb hosts ‘ordinary

people’ or professional landlords? “It varies. In Asia, it is generally more professional [landlords].” Ten he adds: “Te whole

conversation about ‘Is it professional or not’ – why does it mater? Tere is the guest experience and how it’s delivered. Te guest experience we want is the experience of a home, the amenities of a home. You might meet a host, you might not. Te common denominator is the uniqueness and the amenities. It can be delivered by a boutique hotel, by an individual or by a property manager.” He points out: “Airbnb has

continually evolved. It was about

To be regulated is to be recognised. We

support clear rules. So many of our hosts have been operating in a grey area. We don’t want our community to not know where they stand

PICTURE: Jakapan Buayam

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