Airbnb home

Evolving hotel alternatives

The biggest disruptor in hospitality is growing up and finding new ways to tap its massive network, as it gets better at navigating controversy. Ten years after Airbnb’s founding, travelers have used the company’s platform to find a place to stay some 300 million times, renting everything from spare bedrooms to luxury apartments to tree houses from private owners around the world. That scale has translated into billions of dollars in rental revenue for property owners large and small—but also headaches as critics have accused Airbnb of contributing to housing shortages and flouting zoning laws. As it has grown, Airbnb has found more ways to work with local governments, brokering agreements to help promote tourism as it woos regulators in new cities and collecting taxes to replace those tourists often pay when staying at hotels. (As of 2018, the company has generated more than $830 million in such fees.) Now valued at $31 billion and preparing for a potential IPO next year, the company is tailoring services to business travelers and families, while expanding its offering of “experiences,” activities users can now book in about 800 cities. Airbnb has also launched a program it calls Open Homes, helping to house 11,000 people displaced by crises like hurricanes, wildfires and wars with individuals willing to house them for free. —Katy Steinmetz

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