What Can Hoteliers Learn From Airbnb About an 11-Star Experience?

It’s no secret that travelers love the experience which they receive when booking a stay on Airbnb. From the clear presentation of the accommodation to the seamless digital experience and communication to your guest. It’s obviously not the same experience as you would expect as in a hotel, but some travelers prefer that, whilst others don’t feel comfortable with sleeping in the spare room of a stranger.

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Nevertheless, it’s hard to argue that Airbnb have spent a lot of time thinking about the guest experience and ensuring that their hosts deliver consistently great experiences. A single bad performance from one host may harm all other hosts on the platform. So it’s worthwhile looking at how Airbnb view the guest experience and how you can always go a step further to make the stay even more memorable.

Brian Chesky, Co-Founder and CEO of Airbnb recently participated in an interview on Masters of Scale, hosted by Reid Hoffman, who was a co-Founder in Paypal before founding LinkedIn and eventually becoming a partner at Venture Capital firm Greylock Partners. During the interview, Chesky discusses how they evaluated many parts of their guest experience and went crazy to find the perfect balance between an experience which a guest would simply “expect” and one which they will rave about to all their friends.

Getting to an 11 Star Experience

Chesky starts off by outlining what a one to five star check-in experience would be. For example, a one star experience may consist of arriving at the accomodation, knocking on the door and no one opens, they never show up and you need to contact Airbnb to get your money back. Whereas a three star experience may constitute of having to wait 20 minutes for the host to let you in.

Moving ahead to a 5 star experience, that may consist of the host being there on time, they let you in and the stay is as you would expect it to be. That’s nothing spectacular, but there was nothing wrong with it either – so you have no reason to not rate it a 5 star experience. But that’s not going to result in anyone raving to all their friends about how great the accommodation was or Airbnb itself, right?

So let’s look at a 6 star experience.

You arrive at the accommodation, the host is there and welcomes you at the door. He shows you around the apartment, there is some candy and a bottle of wine waiting on the table. There’s cold water in the fridge and toiletries in the bathroom. That would already be a great experience and one which would give you a reason to use Airbnb again.

But what about a 7 star experience?

You arrive and the host welcomes you at the door. The fridge is fully stocked with food, beer, and soft drinks. The host already knows that you like surfing, his own surfboard is waiting for you outside and he’s already booked lessons for you. Oh, and he’s also leaving his car here for you to use and managed to organise a reservation at the hottest restaurant in the city.

It’s obvious that this is already getting to be an amazing experience. But Chesky likes to take it further…

What does a 10 star check-in experience look like?

This is what Chesky calls “The 1964 Beatles Check-In.” You get off the plane at the airport and there are thousands of people cheering your name to welcome you to the country. You get whisked through security and there is a press conference at the front yard of the apartment which you are staying at with journalists eager to ask about your trip and what you have planned.

An absolutely crazy experience, but Chesky isn’t afraid to take it even further!

…and finally, an 11 star experience!

You arrive at the airport and Elon Musk greets you on the tarmac, and says “Oh, you’re not staying here in San Fransisco, you’re going to space!”

What can hoteliers learn from this?

Whilst we by no means are suggesting that hoteliers aim to form partnerships with SpaceX and send their guests to space, there is a magic point between a 5 star experience which any guest comes to simply expect as the norm, and an insane 11 star experience. It’s about continuing to taking incremental steps to improve the guest experience, and suddenly having that bottle of wine waiting for the guest doesn’t seem that impossible. And once you have that, the next improvement isn’t that far away. Then finally, what was an 8 star experience is now what you’re delivering to every guest which arrives at your hotel.

Friend or foe, hoteliers can still learn a lot from Airbnb. Considering that they have completely created a new market for accommodation and even contribute over 30% of the entire hotel market in London, there must be some takeaway learnings which can be implemented in your hotel.

The full transcript of the Masters of Scale interview with Brian Chesky, can be found here.