Airbnb has hired Chip Conley, founder of the Joie de Vivre boutique hotel chain, as "head of global hospitality." Conley will be overseeing a "Hospitality Lab" based in Dublin, Ireland, holding both offline workshops and online classes to train Airbnb's hosts in nine key best practices for hospitality, including prompt responses, accuracy, and cleanliness. Guest reviews will be used as a way to check and enforce the standards.
The company, which has hosted over 8.5 million guests to date, is walking a delicate line here. In cities where it's faced legal troubles, it claims that the rentals listed on the site are informal, neighborly transactions, not illegal short-stay hotels. By emphasizing professional standards for hosts, they may improve the guest experience, but hosting will become a much more serious undertaking, and it'll be harder legally to claim it as an informal activity. It may also be harder to attract casual hosts. This reporter, for example, used to list her apartment as an Airbnb host, but was gently encouraged to suspend the listing when life got in the way and response times got too long.
[Image: Flickr user jameskm03]