We’re thrilled to welcome Chip Conley to the Community Center to share his reflections on the relationship between wisdom and work and how the Airbnb host community has helped shape his career. A longtime hospitality entrepreneur, Airbnb strategic advisor, author, and host champion, Chip’s investment in this host community has deep roots and a lasting legacy. His new book, Wisdom@Work: The Making of a Modern Elder, promises to reframe the idea of growing older as an opportunity to share knowledge and become a student again, as well. His book will be available in English September 18th with additional languages to come in the following months.
Q: You’ve been invested in hospitality and in the Airbnb host community for many years. How did that work inspire the wisdom you share in your new book?
A: First of all, I miss our host community. During my four years in a leadership role in the company, I loved traveling around the world while learning from our hosts. There’s an old saying, “Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens,” and I found our host community to be skillful listeners, but also remarkable contributors to the community as a whole. The “wisdom of the crowd” (our global host community) educated me quite a bit and I hope they’ll see some of their point of view represented in my new book which chronicles why the world needs to value wisdom in a world that is increasingly dominated by technology.
Q: What can hosts learn from your approach to wisdom in their own hosting journeys?
A: It’s been fascinating to be twice the age of the average employee at Airbnb during my five and a half years in the company (the last year and a half as a consultant). I’ve done my best to be a champion for our host community and, especially, those who are a little older. Brian and his co-founders really appreciate that hosts 50 and older receive the highest Airbnb guest satisfaction scores of any demographic. There may be a few reasons for this: more time to focus on their hosting skills, growing emotional intelligence (a key feature of great hosts) as we age, and maybe a longer-term commitment to hosting as a means of creating retirement income. I don’t think any age group holds a monopoly on wisdom, but it is a quality that one can cultivate and harvest over time.
Q: How has the concept of hospitality changed, or not, for you from your 20s, 30s, 40s, and beyond?
A: When I started Joie de Vivre Hospitality in my mid-20s (1987), the company was one of the first boutique hotel companies in the U.S. We were proving that a growing number of travelers were looking for more of a personalized, localized hotel experience. Interestingly, we changed the title for our front desk agents from “clerks” to “hosts,” so the idea of hosting has been in my blood for 32 years. Over the 24 years I was CEO of that company, we created 52 boutique hotels, and it become clear that the big global chains wanted to start looking more like boutique hotels (more attention to design, better restaurants and bars, more focus on local experiences). When I joined Airbnb as the Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy, I saw this new home-sharing wave as being the boutique hotel innovation writ large as technology allowed Airbnb to take this localized hospitality focus and make it global. When Brian Chesky approached me to join the company five and a half years ago, he asked, “How would you like to democratize hospitality?” And, I think that’s what Airbnb and our amazing host community have done.
Q: What’s one piece of advice you would give a new host as they start out?
A: The common quality of our best hosts around the world is a combination of being very organized and very welcoming and empathetic. Those are different qualities, and some hosts may be better at one than the other, but those who can master both (sometimes it’s a couple who combine those qualities) will be very successful.
Q: What’s next for you, Chip? What do you want this next season to hold for you?
A: I continue to be a Strategic Advisor to Brian and his senior team. My process of writing Wisdom@Work helped me to see how many people in middle age and beyond desire to rethink their life and career but how few resources we have to support people in midlife awakenings. Thus, I’ve created the world’s first midlife wisdom school, the Modern Elder Academy, dedicated to providing the place and the tools to start reframing a student’s lifetime of experience. It’s a beachfront campus one-hour north of Cabo San Lucas in southern Baja, Mexico, so I’m back in the hospitality business again. We have people coming to join us from all over the world.
To read more about Chip’s book and the Modern Elder Academy, visit his website.
From the vantage point of 50+ it is wonderful to be acknowledged for what we bring to business. Thanks Chip Conley & everyone at Airbnb.
I have been an Airbnb host for a year and a half.
I let a room in my home, not a whole property.
I have met some lovely people, made some friends along the way and earned some extra income.
I fall into the older category for an Airbnb host and agree, that being organised, welcoming and empathetic are very important qualities.
The interview was very interesting and raised some useful points, thank you.
Inspiring interview--thanks! I am a 66 year old SuperHost, but only have one studio available to rent through Airbnb. There is still so much more I want to create and experience in what life I have left, and am hoping Chip's book will stimulate some inner guidance.
I love Chip Conley's work and also his energy.
I was able to see a bit of it, in person, a few years ago at the Airbnb Open in Los Angeles. I think this man has an admirable life story and I'm excited about his new book.
I feel myself with a mission of helping the world to embrace more humanity the midst of so all this technology.
Thanks for this gift, @Airbnb!
Exactly! And well said, Stewart in Falkland. AirBnB, as its name indeed implies, began by focusing on BnB and on rooms casually let for a night or two and this continues in its approach. The needs of those letting typically entire flats or houses for holidaying guests are significantly different in many ways and seem not to be adequately recognised.
In my own case as with many others standard practice is letting Saturday to Saturday. I can set Saturday as a mandatory check-in day (during the high season) if I chose and I can equally set a minimum stay of seven days but I can't stop someone from booking a nine day period Saturday to Monday. Indeed, despite my stipulations AirBnB recently sent me a confirmed booking Friday to Monday week, ten days in all and although welcome enough in one sense with the effect of screwing up the part weeks on either side of the central one.
And neither I nor any of our guests care about a nightly rate, a holiday weekly rate being the relevant criterion.
AirBnB, undoubtedly helpful and beneficial though it is, is too prescriptive and insufficiently aware of the differences distinguishing BnB-type listings from self-catering holiday let listings but also between in the latter category newly built or tarted up holiday units in contrast to older traditional houses with "faults" that freak out the neurotic but are welcomed and accepted by those for whom finding a comfortable and welcoming house without ideas above its station is the main criterion.
I’ve met many wonderful guests during my years a a host, only 2 have for one reason or another, have I’ve said no when the option was given. Totally enjoy being a host!
Hello from Riga!
Thank you for your attention and have a good day ;)
You can check my profile on social media and, of course, book from me properties here if you plan to come to Latvia! C ya!
This is Līge Eglīte