Airbnb taps Chip Conley as new head of hospitality
Airbnb announced this week Chip Conley, founder of award-winning boutique hotel company Joie de Vivre Hospitality, has joined the 5-year-old Access Economy giant as its new head of global hospitality.
For nearly three decades Conley has been a force of innovation in the hospitality industry, overseeing the creation and management of 52 award-wining boutique hotels and spas. Conley told TechCrunch's Anthony Ha his relationship with Airbnb began several months ago, after he met with CEO Brian Chesky and delivered a talk at the company on the hospitality industry. That talk made some Airbnb execs say, “Wait, we want to be a hospitality company, as well as a design and tech company,” he said.
Conley's first major initiatives at Airbnb will be the creation of a Hospitality Lab in Dublin, Ireland, and the development of a training program to support cohesive standards for hospitality within Airbnb's host community. The standards – including host response times, listing accuracy and cleanliness – are aimed at providing a blueprint for consistent yet personalized experiences across Airbnb's global network of over 500,000 listings.
"I became a boutique hotelier because I wanted to shake up the conventional wisdom that in order to offer quality hospitality had to be conventional," Conley said. "Nearly 30 years later, Airbnb is now on the forefront of a new type innovation built from the same components: meaningful host connections, great design and local experiences. But, with over 35,000 cities in our network, Airbnb's hospitality has the potential to impact cross-cultural understanding in a measurable, positive way on a global scale. That's unprecedented."
When Airbnb’s founders came up with the money-making idea of sharing space in August 2008, they didn’t realize they would be building a global community, one dwelling at a time. In 2011, Airbnb was valuated at $1.3 billion. Unlike other global hospitality companies, much of the money from Airbnb transactions goes directly into local economies while also fostering more authentic travel experiences and greater community connectedness.
But the company is "walking a delicate line," according to Fast Company's Anya Kamenetz. "In cities where it's faced legal troubles, it claims that the rentals listed on the site are informal, neighborly transactions, not illegal short-stay hotels," she writes. "By emphasizing professional standards for hosts, they may improve the guest experience, but hosting will become a much more serious undertaking, and it'll be harder legally to claim it as an informal activity.
Initially, the new Hospitality Lab will develop educational curriculum, including offline workshops, online webinars and hospitality tips. As hosts move through the program, the lab plans to share success stories and best practices with the rest of the host community.
In the future, Airbnb hopes to create classifications for listings, such as categories for business travelers, families or romantic travels, Conley told Forbes. That would make it more parsimonious for people to find what they want, especially in saturated cities such as Paris or New York.
Conley will be based at Airbnb headquarters in San Francisco.
"When people think about the meaningful experiences they've had through Airbnb, their hosts' warm welcome or thoughtful gestures are always at the core," said Airbnb's Chesky. "No one in the industry is better qualified than Chip to help our hosts redefine hospitality."