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The experience economy will be a ‘massive business,’ according to Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky

Chesky’s vision? To be a “global travel community.”

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky Asa Mathat
Shirin Ghaffary is a senior Vox correspondent covering the social media industry. Previously, Ghaffary worked at BuzzFeed News, the San Francisco Chronicle, and TechCrunch.

Most people think of Airbnb as a real estate rental business, but that’s wrong, says Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky.

“I think the key that makes Airbnb is the fact that we’re a community, not just a series of commodities,” said Chesky, speaking onstage at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.

“And so the people who misunderstand Airbnb, they tend to just see a bunch of real estate,” he continued. “But of course, if you look a little deeper, what you’re going to see are three million people — our hosts — and that’s in many ways, really, what you’re buying.”

When asked about internal disagreements around the departure of CFO Laurence Tosi a few months ago, Chesky said that reports have been exaggerated, but that the two did have “slightly different visions” and that Chesky wanted to build a global travel community that includes things like Experiences, content and other lines of business outside of renting homes.

“We want to focus on the things that are most differentiated, the things that are most oriented around community, whether that’s going into Experiences or doubling down on China.”

Experiences, which offers users activities hosted by locals — like a photography workshop or a cooking class — is now doing a million and a half bookings on an annualized basis. It’s growing much faster than Homes did, according to Chesky, who shared the data point that three in four millennials said they’d rather buy an Experience than a physical good.

Airbnb’s ability to continue to grow Experiences and prove the profitability on those margins will be key to guaranteeing their future success. When asked about if the company plans to IPO soon, Chesky said they’re “ready” to go public within the next year — no surprises there — but he did add that he chatted with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about it.

“Mark is a big proponent, and I have no issues with it,” said Chesky.

Watch the full Code Conference video here:

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