(NEW YORK) — Airbnb, one of the biggest players in the travel-sharing economy, has launched a Hospitality Lab to teach hosts best practices for customer service.
With Airbnb guests traveling to 192 countries and speaking more than 32 different languages, the company decided to establish hospitality standards in an effort to create some level of consistency across guest experiences, representatives said.
“With over 500,000 listings in over 35,000 cities around the world, we have a huge opportunity to connect people from different cultures together,” Emily Joffrion, a representative for Airbnb, told ABC News. “But cultural differences can mean challenges in expectations. Through education, we hope to standardize elements of a stay that address universal basic needs, while continuing to encourage intensely local experiences.”
Chip Conley, of Joie de Vivre Hospitality, has been tapped to establish standards for listing accuracy, cleanliness and appropriate response time.
“I became a boutique hotelier because I wanted to shake up the conventional wisdom that – in order to offer quality – hospitality had to be conventional,” Conley said in a statement. “Nearly 30 years later, Airbnb is now on the forefront of a new type of innovation built from the same components: meaningful host connections, great design and local experiences.”
Conley’s staff, who are based in Dublin, have already begun coordinating offline workshops, online webinars and dispensing hospitality tips to hosts as part of a pilot program. The lab is focusing on nine hospitality standards, but company representatives did not name any beyond response time, listing accuracy and cleanliness.
Airbnb does not plan to supply bed linens or personal toiletries to guests, as some other vacation home rental sites do, according to representatives. But there may be subtle encouragement for hosts to do so.
“We believe that with the right guidelines, these hospitality standards will become norms that the community upholds without Airbnb involvement,” Joffrion said.
She rejected the notion that the effort hints that Airbnb users are engaging in a more formal rental activity than just occasional hosting.
“The vast majority of our hosts are renting out their primary residences and using Airbnb to make supplementary income,” said Joffrion. “These hosts usually have very little practical experience in hospitality.”
Though potentially helpful to novices, completing the Hospitality Lab will not be mandatory for listings to remain active. One host, who spoke with ABC News on condition of anonymity, expressed disinterest in participating.
“A lot of the things they are suggesting seem pretty obvious,” the host said. “I personally wouldn’t sign up for any workshops.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
John Newsome and Anne Woolsey, CNN