Airbnb, the service which lets people rent out couches, rooms, or houses to strangers by the night, sounded like an unlikely sociological experiment to most. Now it’s a genuine business phenomenon: The company is announcing today that it has booked a total of 10 million nights since it launched in 2008.It’s now booking a night every two seconds. Four years ago, Airbnb considered itself lucky to book one night every 24 hours.
The hotel industry shouldn’t quake in its boots quite yet. Airbnb has 200,000 properties available worldwide. Less than 20 per cent of those are booked on a given night—about 38,000.
According to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the U.S. alone had 4.8 million hotel rooms available in 2010—the most recent year for which numbers were available—and their average occupancy was 58 per cent.
Airbnb’s runaway growth is a double-edged sword for the company. When it was small, it was easy for regulators and politicians to ignore the ways in which Airbnb users flouted local regulations on short-term rentals. As Airbnb gets bigger and bigger, its impact has grown.
Airbnb has had a disproportionate effect on some markets where it’s well-established. In its hometown of San Francisco, landlords and tenants groups alike blame Airbnb for disrupting the market for regular apartment rentals and not forcing hosts to follow local regulations.
So Airbnb has tried to shift the story to focus the attention on the benefits its brought to ordinary users. Take a look at the infographic the company prepared: It’s full of heartwarming stories about people who have used Airbnb earnings to take care of elderly family members or pay medical bills.
It doesn’t mention whether the featured individuals have sought the permits and licenses and paid the taxes and fees required to rent out their rooms or houses. Airbnb’s host agreement requires them to do so. But the reality is that most hosts likely don’t bother.
Here’s the infographic: