Airbnb Open 2016, the Airbnb festival that celebrates hospitality is now in its third year. This year it was held in Los Angeles, California. Hosts from all over the world met in Downtown LA’s Broadway Theater District which features historic theaters and movie palaces built between 1910 and 1931.
Hosts enjoy a busy three-day schedule attending conferences and presentations – this year our co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky launched Trips, our Global Director of Public Policy and Communications, Chris Lehane, talked about the ever-increasing home sharing movement: some videos are here. We also had the chance to meet and chat with many hosts during a lively Italian-Japanese breakfast.
Here are their stories about why they love hosting and their cities.
Emanuela brought to Open her first-hand experience with the Rome Home Sharing Club, leading a workshop addressed to those who are willing to commit in order to add value to their local community. Originally from Caserta, with a law degree, she has a contagious smile and very clear ideas. The home sharing experience, some years ago, changed her in many ways: now she is someone who knows how to turn a house into a cozy home, she carefully studies Rome’s neighborhood to give the best tips to her guests and goes out of her way to make them happy, even involving family members, always ready to help. She gives their guests maps to get around easily, and provider them with restaurant tips to eat the best carbonara in town. She thinks the hosts have a challenging and beautiful responsibility: to honor the Italian culture and its infinite, local traditions. That’s why she is a fan of networking among hosts, because it is a civic mission.
“Guests check-in usually takes an hour and half. It’s important for them, and for me, because I hope that, thanks to my help, they get the feeling they have arrived in the most beautiful city on Earth. I want them to leave Italy already planning the next trip back here. I really put a lot of effort into this. Our guests are the ambassadors of our Country to the world, and we are the ones who should make their experience memorable. I work hard to create a bond since the very beginning. And then there is the offline experience. You have to make them feel involved in your life. As hosts we have a great power, which is key to improve Rome and to convey its beauty. Even its most hidden gems. We, the hosts, have to know them, like the Musei Capitolini or the street art in Tor Marancia. The community is the future of the home sharing.”
Lucia remembers her first host experience as a sign of fate. Last February she started using Airbnb and the first guests to her house, in lively Milan district Porta Romana, were a young couple who embodied some of her strongest passions: they came from France, they loved mountain hiking, and, of course, they were tireless travelers. They thoroughly enjoyed the company of Uma, Lucia’s beloved dog. It was a fresh start for her, which has led her way to Open for the first time. Having spent her working life on one hand dealing with books in the publishing sector and on the other managing some hostels around Italy, she really likes hearing about good stories and meeting enthusiastic globetrotters. Homesharing is having a positive impact on her life and she thinks it can have positive effects in neighborhoods and cities, too. Even her 90 years old mum has been won over by home sharing and enjoys chatting with guests eager to hear some anecdotes about Milan.
“I rediscovered my passions with home sharing. It was love at first sight. I like hosting because it generates an exchange of life experiences. And since I worked in the travel industry before, I really enjoy living this new tourism era and using technology to connect with the home sharers’ movement. Of course it’s not all about technology. The home sharing culture is about meeting a community who lives, works and travels as millennials, using the net as a resource to empower progress. You always need to show kindness when you welcome someone in your house. I would like to work with my neighbors to build places around Milan where citizens and visitors can meet up, know each other and feel they are always welcomed”.
Fabrizio keeps a large map globe in his kitchen where each guest writes their name next to their hometown. Then Fabrizio takes a selfie with them, and keeps it in his smartphone in an album he is very proud to show us. Since 2014 he embraced the home sharing experience and this year, too, he couldn’t miss Open to learn something new from all different hosts. Fabrizio actively takes part in the Rome Home Sharing Club and here, in Los Angeles, brings his experience to the attendees. On the floor of the building where he lives and shares a room, there are other four apartments, often featuring empty rooms. He would like to have his neighbors involved in the home sharing, too. He thinks he started a way of life that is positive for his neighborhood and his area.
“I’d like to involve my neighbors too in the home sharing experience. I know it’s a big responsibility. When my guests arrive I feel like I have to give them the best welcome ever, I have to make sure that they enjoy the city and they get to know Rome like I know it. It takes kindness and positivity. These people, who pick you without even knowing who you are, should get an award! And when you see it’s mutual, that it’s really about an exchange of culture and experiences, you feel good. That’s why I really encourage everyone to try the home sharing. I know there are people who think they would never welcome strangers in their house. I want to tell them that you have to think the other way around. These people are not strangers: they are potential friends”.
One of the best things about Airbnb Open is the opportunity to meet hosts from around the world. We met Megumi at a breakfast for Italian and Japanese hosts. This is the second year Megumi attended the Airbnb Open festival. She lives with her cheerful five year old daughter Akari in a very small village called Misashima which is two hours away from Tokyo with less than ten houses. Three years ago she decided to leave the big city behind and restore an old farmstead, that was once used to make silk fabrics, with the help of a friend. Her new house became an Airbnb listing and since then she welcomed many backpack travelers looking for an alternative way to discover Japan’s unique beauty. At first her neighbors were reluctant about the project, but when they met Megumi’s guests they opened their hearts to home sharing. They even helped her repair the house. Megumi dreamed about having a bigger family for her daughter, today they have a world family coming to visit them every week.
“Nowdays most Japanese families small, only around one or two people, but I wanted for me and my daughter to get back to those times when the entire community was there when you needed it, like one big family. My guests are like family for us; we share ideas, skills, experiences and stories with them. They are helping me raising Akari to be open minded, curious and brave”.
Want to meet other hosts? Visit the Airbnb Community Center and schedule a meetup now!