It started with a simple tweet on Christmas day. Brian Chesky, CEO and co-founder of Airbnb, posted the kind of hive-mind question that anyone might ask followers:
If @Airbnb could launch anything in 2017, what would it be?— Brian Chesky (@bchesky) December 26, 2016
Later, Chesky would say that he only expected to receive about 10 replies. Instead, he saw more than 1,500...and the suggestions are still pouring in.
Airbnb and hotels are irrevocably intertwined, but one has to wonder if a hotel CEO asked the same seemingly innocuous question, would it bring the same kind of deluge of response? Had, say, Hilton Worldwide CEO Chris Nassetta asked on Twitter: "If @HiltonWorldwide could launch anything in 2017, what would it be?" would it be met with thousands of replies? Better yet, would he have answered them?
Granted, Hilton is a publicly traded company, so its CEO fielding questions from the Twitterverse is probably on the "not-OK" list. But Chesky didn't just ask a question and leave it at that. He dutifully and thoughtfully responded to the ideas put forth—if not to all of them (there were tons), many of them.
Second, many of the ideas thrown Chesky's way were well out of the norm of traditional—think self-driving homes (RVs) and a traveler finder (pairing Airbnb guests together in one home). It prompted his followers to give Chesky a pat on the back.
Here, then, are some of the highlights of Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky's Twitterthon.
Stephen Cole, a self-described "investor, bitcoiner and startupper" suggested that Airbnb accept online (and unregulated) currency Bitcoin.
Here, Chesky suffered the ignominy of letting all of Twitter know that he, the CEO of one of the sharing economy's great stories, had no idea that Expedia accepted Bitcoin. Oops.
Yes, they do, he was reminded.
@bchesky Yeah, they take it for hotels. I'd love to give all my travel business to Airbnb and would in a heartbeat if you all took bitcoin.— Stephen Cole (@sthenc) December 26, 2016
@bchesky I know myself and many other bitcoiners (a growing market!) would be stoked to see this. Thanks for taking input via Twitter!— Stephen Cole (@sthenc) December 26, 2016
Coder Andrew DeSantis echoed the sentiment:
Science and travel writer Andy Murdock suggested that Airbnb improve its eco-footprint.
While hotels have long touted their environmental efforts, Airbnb has no such mandate. With a green initiative, Murdock suggested, hosts could "tout their green credentials," and users could filter their options by clean energy properties. Chesky responded favorably to the suggestion.
Tech entrepreneur Anil Dash brought up discrimination as a major concern for Airbnb users, an issue that has been simmering for some time:
Chesky responded quickly:
@anildash we will so our part and have been very hands on since we made our commitment— Brian Chesky (@bchesky) December 27, 2016
On New Technology and New Services...
Programmer Brian Alvey suggested some new tech initiatives that the hotel industry has been eyeing for several years.
"We are actually working on self driving [sic] homes," Chesky replied—and this could be a key feature for future development. Keith Wasserman, co-Founder of Gelt Venture Capital (and owner of 5,600 apartment units), noted that RV sales are "up substantially. Millenials buying a bulk of them! Need to reinagine the RV!"
Erick Schoenfeld, co-founder of TouchCast, suggested launching Airbnb for corporate travel, seeking ""business" accounts with volume discounts (for SMB, not just enterprise), filter for biz travelers, w/ meeting rooms, workspace...Same way Uber works for business. Would love this!"
Tim Herbig requested a “flight price comparison/booking tool which finally kicks those existing scam platforms.” Chesky noted the challenges this kind of tool would present:
@herbigt the reason tools are so bad is they have to connect to a 1970s GDS software system (Amadeus, Galileo). This can be circumvented— Brian Chesky (@bchesky) December 26, 2016
The tools, he added, are "very transactional."
On an Airbnb-branded hotel...
Gav, a product manager for “a future Amazon.com business,” suggested that Airbnb “pull an Amazon and go into brick and mortar with your own data-backed bed and breakfasts,” and another user echoed the sentiment with a request for “airbnb designed hotels.” Chesky seemed to like the idea.
@kcfaul wow, big move! I will say if you've seen our office you would know how much we obsess and enjoy driving spaces— Brian Chesky (@bchesky) December 26, 2016
Veeral Patel, perhaps somewhat jokingly, suggested bringing Airbnb to Mars. Chesky's response, however, did not seem to be tongue-in-cheek:
"Do we really need Mars in the roadmap??" another fan queried. "It will eventually be in everyone's roadmap," Chesky responded. While opening a property on the moon might be closer, he added, "there are cons to this."
On What Hotels Can Do...
While Airbnb will always have its fans, the thousands of responses offer some ideas as to what hotels can do to keep guests from opting for the "home-sharing" service. Loyalty points are already popular, and hotel companies like Wyndham are already simplifying their rewards programs in order to keep guests coming back. Likewise, discrimination laws are already in place to prevent inequality in lodging, but hotels can leverage the accusations against Airbnb to promote themselves as more-inclusive options.
While the pros and cons of using Bitcoin can be debated for hours, hotels might do well to begin experimenting with accepting the online currency for some services and seeing if the currency remains sufficiently steady to use for payment in full.
As for a hotel on Mars...well, maybe Airbnb can go there first and check out the atmosphere.