Airbnb and the evolution of travel

On July 22nd, 2015

I am amazed how Airbnb has exploded around the world since its inception in the spring of 2009. It has morphed and grown at such a rapid rate, from a handful of listings in a few cities to thousands of hosts around the globe, hundreds of bookings to millions within its first three years!

Today, their website has surpassed one million listings, offering more lodging than any other hotel chain in the world and projections for their growth continue to be astronomically optimistic! Touted as one of the pioneers of the sharing economy, Airbnb has inspired many more peer-to-peer businesses all over the world. In fact, today sharing has never been more popular and consumer demand for local travel experiences is pervading every facet of the travel industry.

After the success of peer-to-peer accommodation with Airbnb, the sharing economy concept has invaded other travel sectors. Sites like Bookalokal and Eatwith, businesses that pair visitors with home cooks for a fee. Tourists become dinner guests in a local home to experience local culture and taste culinary specialties of a particular neighborhood or region. Then there are the locally led tour operations. Vayable defines their tour service as the best way to find unique, local recommended travel experiences worldwide or Guidehop, a site offering ways to find and create unique activities around the world via a peer to peer marketplace.

This diversification in the sharing economy is another indication that Airbnb’s concept has had a resounding ripple effect on the entire travel industry.

The truth is Airbnb makes travel more accessible for people

Airbnb conducts studies on the economic impact their service has had in different cities around the world. Results show travelers and local economies both benefit financially because of Airbnb. Airbnb guests stay longer than hotel guests stay and spend more money in local businesses over the course of their trips as a result.

This tells me the money travelers save staying with an Airbnb host can help them afford to spend more time in a destination, injecting more tourism dollars to support the local economy. A win/win for travelers and the cities they visit. Simply put, Airbnb is changing how people live and travel.

The value for money that Airbnb hosts provide is undeniable, so much better than hotels in many cases. I have personal experience with this as I travel full time with my family. We have been vagabonding for over a year now with half of that time staying with Airbnb hosts. Every city we’ve stayed in whole place Airbnb rentals it has cost a fraction of what it would have cost us in a hotel or even a hostel for that matter. Airbnb makes my family’s vagabond lifestyle financially possible.

Having a more authentic, local experience vacationing is a key travel trend for 2015

I can’t help thinking Airbnb is a key driver for this trend. Since its start in 2009 Airbnb has helped travelers explore and get to know cities away from tourist areas. Hosts share their local favorites for restaurants and shopping revealing hidden gems off the beaten tourist path to their guests.

Consumer demand for more authentic travel has influenced hotels to adapt and work to offer local experiences to would be guests. Many hotel chains now help guests connect and engage their local communities, working with local businesses to create options for guests seeking an authentic travel experience.

The Marriott has a program called Six Degrees, a social platform for the hotel lobby. It is an app that helps like-minded guests make connections in Marriott lobbies all over the world. Then there is Hilton’s Curio, a collection of unique Hilton hotels whose aim is to offer local discovery to travelers who seek a more authentic travel experience.

Airbnb is an impressive example of entrepreneurship and enterprise. It is amazing the entire service started with three air mattresses and free breakfast! The poster child for the sharing economy, Airbnb has influenced the travel industry for the better. I know firsthand how Airbnb makes travel more accessible for people. My family would not be able to afford our vagabond lifestyle without the accommodation choices that Airbnb provides. Travelers and local economies are benefiting and Airbnb’s service will only continue to grow as a result.

Tracey Tullis is freelance writer traveling the world with her husband and young son. You can learn about her family’s vagabonding life on her blog The Expat and follow her on Twitter @expatexperiment