Airbnb’s 2016 highlights and 2017 trends we’re watching

In late December, Airbnb began sharing with Home Sharing Club leaders the trends we’ll be watching in 2017 and highlights of progress made in 2016. The home sharing community has a lot to feel proud about as we look ahead to 2017. Just over a year ago, we set the goal of establishing 100 Home Sharing Clubs around the world. We closed out 2016 with 112. Take a few minutes to check out this video celebrating the Clubs, spanning 17 markets and seven languages, which Airbnb’s global public policy chief Chris Lehane highlighted in his presentation at Airbnb Open 2016.

Just as home sharing has been around for centuries, people have come together for centuries to represent and advocate for themselves. Guilds for skilled artisans in the 18th and 19th centuries became the trade unions of the 20th century. They are the predecessors to these Home Sharing Clubs that engage with each other and with their communities, from sharing hosting best practices in San Francisco, to working with local businesses in Tasmania, to volunteering to put up street lights in Mexico City and hold clothing and toy drives in Rome and Rio, to advocating for fair rules for home sharing with policymakers.

These independently run Clubs are coming together in part because the Airbnb platform democratizes capitalism. Hosts keep 97 percent of the listing price of their home. There aren’t many other examples in the modern world of the person primarily responsible for the creation of the capital actually keeping most of the earnings, as is the case with Airbnb.

The emergence of Club-like organizations for sharing-economy earners is just one trend we’re watching for in the coming year.

The emergence of Club-like organizations for sharing-economy earners is just one trend we’re watching for in the coming year. As the force behind so much of our progress in 2016, we want to put this progress into broader context and share first with our community the other emerging trends we’ll be watching for. Thank you for all that you do.

The network effect

The “network effect” of our platform means that every day, more people are learning about Airbnb by word of mouth, then joining the community themselves. Our research indicates that people most often learn about Airbnb from friends and family. Even with the robust growth propelled by this network effect, overall awareness of Airbnb, while growing, is still low. While 50 percent of US voters in key markets have a favorable impression of Airbnb, 28 percent still have no opinion of us.

Despite having lower awareness than other accommodation providers, Airbnb today has more listings than the top three hotel chains combined, including 1 million listings now available via Instant Book. Only one hotel chain has more rooms than we have instantly bookable listings.

On many nights, more than 1 million guests are staying in Airbnb listings around the world. On New Year’s Eve, almost 2 million guests spent the night at Airbnb listings, a new record for a single night and as many bookings as the two largest hotel chains have rooms.

Other metrics reflecting the power of the network effect for Airbnb include:

  • Since our founding in 2008, 140 million guests have arrived at Airbnb listings, including nearly 80 million in 2016, up from 40 million in 2015.
  • In cities like Paris, San Francisco and Seattle, the size of our host-and-guest community in 2016 approached or exceeded 20 percent of the population.
  • In Australia and Japan, our community has grown by more than 200 percent year-over-year, and Sydney and Tokyo are two of our top-five markets. In Australia, we now have 87,000 listings and almost 20 percent of the adult population has an Airbnb account.
  • While we haven’t yet focused on growing our community in China, nearly 1 million guests already have arrived at Airbnb listings there, and we expect to show approximately 100,000 listings by the end of 2016. We have about 30 employees in China today and are excited to be adding more than 300 over the next 24 months as we double our investment and spending there.
  • In Chicago, Los Angeles and New York, majority-immigrant neighborhoods have seen 65-percent growth in active Airbnb listings in the past year.

Millennials and more

Travel and tourism now account for almost 10 percent of global GDP with $7.2 trillion in revenue, making the sector bigger than the oil industry. As the travel and hospitality market continues to expand, Millennials and Generation Z have been quicker to embrace home sharing. In the US alone, these younger adult generations will account for 75 percent of consumers and nearly half of US voters by 2025, and want the kind of experience hosts like you provide. According to research commissioned by Airbnb:

    • Millennials already account for roughly 60 percent of all guests who have ever booked on Airbnb, and the number of Millennials who have booked on Airbnb has grown more than 120 percent in the past year.
    • In key US markets, 85 percent of Millennials support allowing residents in their cities to rent out their extra living space on Airbnb. And more than half of Millennials say they would be more likely to support elected officials who strongly favor home sharing.
    • In China, more than nine in 10 Millennials say travel is an important part of their identity. Eighty-three percent of Airbnb users in China who have made at least one booking are Millennials, the highest proportion of any country.

As the travel and hospitality market continues to expand, Millennials and Generation Z have been quicker to embrace home sharing.

Seniors, meanwhile, are our fastest-growing host demographic, and senior women consistently are the best-rated hosts on Airbnb. AARP polling shows most older Americans wanting to stay in their homes for as long as possible, and many of them have empty bedrooms that can yield extra income to help them afford to “age in place.” According to research conducted for Airbnb:

  • Home sharing on Airbnb brings the typical US host aged 65 and older an extra $8,350 a year, equal to a 52-percent increase over typical Social Security income.
  • Fifty-eight percent of our older American hosts report that Airbnb has helped them stay in their homes.
  • By 2030, one in five Americans will be age 65 or older. Populations of other countries where we operate are aging at similar or faster rates, making home sharing a possible solution for those independent enough to age in place but unable to afford it.

An emerging global policy framework

A year ago, we released our Community Compact outlining our commitment to partner with the cities our hosts call home. The Compact is rooted in our founders’ feeling of responsibility to ensure that Airbnb is a platform that strengthens the cities we work with.

For the first time since the 1920s, as many people are moving into cities as are moving to suburbs, pressuring cities to deliver more for their residents. We have developed a tool to collect hotel taxes at no extra burden to local governments. To date, this tool has helped us remit more than $110 million in new tax revenue in more than 200 jurisdictions around the world, tax dollars that can support existing services and help fund new ones. Some cities where we’re paying taxes are using this new revenue to fund affordable housing or aid for the homeless.

Four of the 10 largest US cities—Chicago, Philadelphia, Phoenix and San Jose—already have enacted progressive rules for home sharing, and we are having constructive discussions with policymakers in five others: Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, San Antonio and San Diego. In Los Angeles, we already have begun collecting and remitting hotel taxes.

Beyond the US, we have continued our work with other governments and NGOs around the world. Our agreement with Dubai’s Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing, for example, commits us to helping to promote responsible hosting and growing and diversify tourism in the emirate. In China, we have finalized half a dozen partnerships, including with Shenzhen, Chongqing, Guangzhou and Shanghai. We’re in talks in Japan, South Korea, and New South Wales, Australia. In India, we’re working with an NGO representing 2 million self-employed women to help the group’s members become home sharers.

Insights gained and lessons learned from these and hundreds of other collaborations with policymakers around the world are now compiled in the new Airbnb Policy Tool Chest, a resource for governments that want to smartly regulate the sharing economy. There never will be a one-size-fits-all policy prescription for home sharing. Each city and community is economically, geographically and demographically unique. But taken together, the results of these collaborations add up to a rapidly forming global policy framework.

A regulatory pattern is emerging from our conversations with policymakers—that they frequently divide home sharing into three categories: 1) shared spaces, 2) primary residences, and 3) vacation rentals and commercial accommodations. Generally speaking, governments are creating light-touch home sharing rules for shared spaces and primary residences, and more significant frameworks for vacation rentals and commercial accommodations.

Generally speaking, governments are creating light-touch home sharing rules for shared spaces and primary residences, and more significant frameworks for vacation rentals and commercial accommodations.

Most of our regulatory discussions focus on the third category: vacation rentals and commercial accommodations. Within this category, markets that historically have been home to a large number of vacation rentals, and cities with affordable housing challenges tend to take different approaches to this type of home sharing.

This pattern of light-touch regulation of shared spaces and primary residences reflects elected officials’ growing appreciation of how Airbnb creates economic opportunity for working families. At a time when advances in technology are increasingly replacing employees with machines, Airbnb helps a typical US host rent their home 47 times a year and earn $7,500 in extra income. As artificial intelligence begins supplanting people in many workplaces, home sharing is a way for hosts to do more for their guests and for themselves.

Our December moment

Last month marked a key moment for our community. In the US, New Orleans passed landmark, potentially model legislation that eases enforcement of the rules and directs a portion of the tax revenue to construction of affordable housing. Chicago enacted its rules which direct a portion of the revenue to aid for the homeless. The Washington, DC suburb of Arlington County, Virginia revised its short-term rental laws to allow for home sharing in time to capitalize on the tourist influx for President-elect Trump’s inauguration.

In New York, when a 2010 law making unhosted home sharing illegal in multiple-unit (3+) buildings was amended earlier this fall to raise fines on hosts, the City also indicated intent to apply the law to Airbnb. This month, after the City recognized it had no basis to file claims against us, we settled the lawsuit we had filed in defense, and the City agreed to work with us to implement our proposed One Host, One Home policy, which we hope will provide a path forward to protect our hosts and address illegal hotels.

And in San Francisco, we look forward to engaging with the city in January following the recent announcement of an effort to address the current policy framework for host registration.

Outside the US in Amsterdam and London, we introduced policy and product changes that strengthened our relationships with those cities. In Tuscany, after more than six months of public debate, regional lawmakers approved new rules that make hosting easier. Similar rules were just approved in Rome. With Jamaica, we enacted our second major Caribbean partnership.

Globally, and of especial importance to all of us at Airbnb, we made progress toward making the community fair for everyone.

Globally, and of especial importance to all of us at Airbnb, we made progress toward making the community fair for everyone. In early June, we undertook a review of every aspect of the platform to help ensure we are doing everything we can to fight bias and discrimination. The review was led by Laura Murphy, former director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s legislative office, and consulted with former US Attorney General Eric Holder and civil rights leaders. We have more work to do. But in December, we announced the following measures of progress, among others:

  • We have reached our goal of making 1 million listings available via Instant Book, listings that can be reserved immediately without prior host approval of a specific guest.
  • Our new product team dedicated to fighting discrimination is ready to launch our first major experiment with reducing the prominence of guest photos in the booking process. The goal is to determine whether we can reduce host reliance on racially relevant information (names, profile photographs) by reducing its prominence and instead highlighting information more relevant to that guest (reviews, identity verification, the stated purpose of their trip). The experiment will launch in January.
  • Since we began the phased rollout of our Community Commitment on November 1, asking Airbnb users to commit to reject bias and discrimination in order to keep using the platform, the acceptance rate has exceeded 95 percent.

A closing note

So much of this progress was made possible by you and others in our community. In the US alone, hosts have sent more than 350,000 emails to elected officials, engaged with our mobilizers in over 14,000 one-to-one meetings, and more than 4,000 of you have participated in public hearings. You have been the difference-makers, and after this tremendous 2016, we expect to see 1 million interactions between hosts and government officials in 2017.

In the coming year, Airbnb will continue to offer meaningful economic opportunities to working families who both share their living space and use our platform to have affordable, authentic experiences. We’re excited to continue our work with you to grow and strengthen our community, while we also continue to partner with policymakers to realize the benefits of home sharing in cities around the world.