Airbnb: A home away from home

Jan Ambrose

Editor of Property Journal (Residential section) (RICS)

In a presentation made prior to the 2016 RICS Inaugural World Built Environment Forum, Chip Conley, Airbnb’s Head of Global Hospitality Strategy traces the growth of Airbnb from 2008 when it was founded. Two of the three co-founders had the idea when they offered airbeds and homemade breakfast in their living room to three guests who were unable to find accommodation anywhere else. Today, Airbnb is operating in two million homes and 34,000 cities in 190 countries.

Airbnb Los Angeles

Jump to Chip Conley's presentation

Conley explains the popularity of this venture and the meaning of foreshadowing in the video. In 1953, Holiday Inn started its hotel chain, which went global in 1970. Holidaymakers or business travellers liked the predictability of knowing that a Holiday Inn hotel would offer the same standard of accommodation anywhere in the world.

This foreshadowed the evolution of the boutique hotel in 1980, when more adventurous travellers wanted the experience of living in the community. Timeshares and house swaps followed, before Airbnb’s co-founders realised that people wanted to ‘travel like a human, live like a local’

Airbnb: The global complexities

But Airbnb has attracted some negative publicity worldwide. Its business model has threatened how hotel traditionally operate hile many city authorities are concerned about contraventions of national regulations as well as the impact Airbnb is having on housing supply and affordability. There have been legal challenges from many countries, including France, Spain, China, and even at the city level in New York and San Francisco. In Germany, Airbnb was banned to protect the local authorities affordable housing strategy. 

In the UK, there have already been court cases regarding subletting. The Deregulation Act 2015 has created further issues, as it states that planning permission for change of use will not be required provided that the property is not used as temporary sleeping accommodation for more than 90 nights in any one year; any property owners who let their home on Airbnb in breach of these conditions are carrying out an unlawful use.

Besides leaseholders illegally subletting property, Airbnb hosts have complained about guests trashing their homes and holding wild parties; guests have complained about poor standards of accommodation.

Local community impact

Much has been made of the impact of Airbnb on local communities, the hospitality industry and the tax base of the cities it has a major presence in. With this in mind, the company has built an ethical framework into their business model with its 'Community Compact’:

"Based on our core principles to help make cities stronger, Airbnb is committed to working with cities where our community has a significant presence and where there is support for the right of people to share their homes, both when they are present and when they are out of town. As we work with cities around the world, we will:

  • Treat every city personally and help ensure our community pays its fair share of hotel and tourist taxes
  • Build an open and transparent community
  • Promote responsible home sharing to make cities stronger"

It's disruptive models of commercial activity like Airbnb and their responsible business approach that rounds off a framework for built environment professionals that starts with the International Ethics Standard launched in 2016 and is discussed at the World Built Environment Forum.

Watch this presentation


About the World Built Environment Forum

The World Built Environment Forum demonstrates responsible leadership for the built environment and is an annual, global event which takes place on a different continent each year.

This forum creates and sets the standard for dialogue and collaboration among professionals, clients, policy makers and regulators with the aim of driving up standards so that our profession and our industry show responsible leadership in enabling sustainable growth.

Find out more about the World Built Environment Forum, access videos from the event and get details of upcoming events.

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