Airbnb is one of the most disruptive breakout startups to come out of Silicon Valley over the past few years. It’s now hosted 10 million guest stays at over 550,000 properties and it’s raised hundreds of millions of dollars with a sky-high valuation. But for a regular traveler using Airbnb as a replacement for hotels, at this current stage of Airbnb’s life, it can sometimes be less than awe-inspiring. In fact, the traveler experiences can be downright unreliable, and even frustrating, at times.
Anyone who has booked stays on Airbnb regularly has likely encountered these problems: pictures and descriptions that are significantly better than what you find when you arrive, dirty apartments, canceled bookings (sometimes at the last minute), and a significant amount of time invested in contacting hosts that don’t respond. These are regular things you face if you use the service a lot, and I’m not addressing some of the more rare worrisome things that have happened (like Fannypack-gate, and the EJ incident).
As the company scales even larger and brings in a wider audience beyond early adopters that might be more forgiving, Airbnb needs to invest more in the user experience of the traveler, making booking more reliable, and enabling better more accurate feedback in its listings. There will always be some element of unpredictability with Airbnb — as you are dealing directly with individuals and home owners — but I think it can be much better than it is.