Earlier this week, Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky and Secretary of State John Kerry brought together a large gathering of policy-makers from the United States and Asia, academics, and many others in Washington, D.C. at a lunch celebrating people-to-people diplomacy, deepening cultural ties between the United States and China, and Airbnb’s continued support of the Gilman Scholarship Program.
The Gilman Scholarship Program was established in 2001 and makes it possible for students from the United States to study in countries around the world. The scholarship is particularly designed for students who might not be able to study abroad without additional financial assistance, and the most popular destination for Gilman Scholars is China.
Assistant Secretary Evan Ryan introduced the event saying:
Airbnb’s commitment to support study abroad in China through the Gilman Scholarship Program, a scholarship for Pell Grant eligible students, is critical as we build understanding between the U.S. and China. Through Airbnb’s support, we’ll be able to send at least ten additional American college students to study or intern each year in China, deepening connections between our two countries. It’s a special honor to partner with Airbnb, whose mission is so closely aligned with ours. Airbnb’s innovative approach to bringing people together provides opportunities for citizens around the world to understand each other better.
At the event, Secretary Kerry said:
…this idea of Airbnb, this idea of studying abroad, this concept that we’ve come together here today is so critical. I’m really delighted that we have Airbnb’s involvement in this. Brian, thank you for being engaged beyond just the business of business but in the world and in seeing the virtues of this interconnectedness. And in seeing the virtues of this interconnectedness.
The Secretary also joked that he might have his own addition to Airbnb:
Perhaps on a personal level I think it’s a great thing because I’m rarely ever at home and my wife is usually in Pittsburgh or Boston, so our place in D.C. could be a pretty good deal.
Fostering connections between people from different communities and cultures is what Airbnb is all about and it’s happening as people everywhere seek out authentic cultural experiences. Co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky talked about how home sharing can help foster this kind of people-to-people diplomacy in the 21st century:
…We think of any traveler on Airbnb crossing a country as a potential cultural ambassador. And so, I think that’s what brings us here today. Not everyone can afford to study abroad or travel, and I think there’s so much to be learned from travel. There’s an old saying: A great trip can set you down a path that does not end in the return…This is what’s fired us to support the Gilman Scholarship Fund…It helps someone who might not otherwise afford it experience a country for the first time.
Airbnb is honored to help Chinese travelers see the world and a growing number of Chinese travelers have become part of our global community. Chinese travelers took 120 million trips in 2015 and have been the world’s top spenders in international tourism since 2012. We’ve seen these trends on Airbnb as well. The number of Chinese travelers using Airbnb for trips abroad increased 500% in 2015, making China one of the fastest growing outbound markets for Airbnb.
As more Chinese travelers return home and begin using Airbnb as hosts, we’ve been speaking with local community members about home sharing. Since Airbnb got started, we have seen how Airbnb can deliver real economic benefits to people and communities, particularly neighborhoods that haven’t benefitted from tourism in the past.
We have discussed these benefits with countless community leaders who are excited about home sharing and recently entered into two model partnerships with local community organizations. In Beijing, Airbnb and Huashou Community Elderly Services Center, a non profit organization associated with China National Committee on Aging (CNCA) have partnered to educate senior citizens about the economic and social benefits of home sharing.In Shenzhen, Airbnb and the City of Shenzhen signed a new Memorandum of Understanding to promote the city’s well-respected culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.
The new agreements in China are similar to partnerships we’ve forged with with other local leaders around the world. We’ll continue to work in partnership with communities and governments to support home sharing and the powerful people-to-people diplomacy that comes when people share their home with travelers from around the world.