How Strange Is a Stranger? Not So Much, Airbnb Tells Us
Like something out of The Addams Family, Airbnb's "Strangers" features some shaggy guests entering a deserted home in the dark of night. Are they bears, or possibly naked Ewoks? A scare-chord sounds, illuminating a single silhouette in a lonely upstairs window.
But then the folk music kicks in: Kevin Morby's "Beautiful Strangers." What bad can happen now?
In the light of day, more unfolds about these funny bipeds: They drink tea and coffee, play board games, know how to work a record player. Like us, they stay up late watching movies, and a parent carries a dozing child off to bed.
When vacation's over, they straighten out crooked pictures and leave a thank-you note. As they vanish through the door again, the shag vanishes and they become ordinary people.
"Strangers aren't that strange," the copy reads. "Try hosting."
It's been 14 years since Airbnb disrupted travel. Ten years ago, following a rash of horror stories, the company's outlook seemed bleak. Over a billion guests later, Airbnb has spread to over 220 countries and regions around the world.
By and large, according to the company, "we have learned a lot—but our most important insight is that strangers really aren't that strange."
"Strangers" is an attempt to get more hosts on the platform. Currently, the company has 4 million of them, earning an average income of $9,600 per year. Among those who've self-reported their genders, 55 percent are women, and 20 percent are teachers or healthcare workers, or live with one. The pandemic has created host profits of over $6 billion.
Airbnb attributes this boom to Covid-19, which has "suddenly untethered tens of millions of people from the need to work in specific places at specific times." (Given the stats above, we'd also argue women especially have needed extra income since pandemic times began.) Between Q3 2019 and Q3 of this year, trip length rose 15 percent; one in five nights booked in the latter quarter were for stays of a month or longer. Last Thanksgiving, Airbnb saw a record number of guests for that particular holiday.
It also appears people use Airbnb to taste-test other ways of living, like the "Strangers" ad demonstrates: "Growth for gross nights booked was strongest in rural areas for Q3 2021 compared to Q3 2019."
To sweeten the deal for new hosts, Airbnb promises a simpler sign-up process with only "10 steps" to set up a listing. The current hosting subsite puts existing minority hosts front and center, particularly women.