It is always fantastic to see how much you enjoy hearing about other members of our Community. As you know, I have been spending a lot of time with Laura (particularly in some of the more exotic locations like airport lounges), so I thought it would be great for you to get to know her a little more.
Spotlighting… @Laura Chambers:
Can you tell us a little more about yourself?
Hello, I’m Laura and I look after our Homes hosts at Airbnb. I help to make sure our hosts have great tools (and information) to be successful, so that they can grow their businesses. I work on ensuring that the Airbnb marketplace is a fair, safe and trusted place for them. And I help hosts get connected to each other (and to us here at Airbnb!). I have an amazing team (there will be around 100 of us by the end of the year) who wake up every day working for you!
Why did you join Airbnb and why did this role attract you?
I took a break from work after having my third child and I realised I was ready for a new opportunity. I had several companies reach out to me, but I was struggling to talk myself into getting excited about them. So I changed direction, and stepped back to really think about where I would like to work. It came down to three big things; I wanted to work for a company with an important mission and a big heart; for a company with a marketplace (I love marketplaces … they are interesting, complicated, and they bring people together); and with three children I wanted a place that would support me in the never-ending work to balance my passions for working and for being a mum. The only company that met those criteria for me was Airbnb! So I reached out and asked for a job. Happily, at the time, Brian (our CEO & co-founder), was thinking about creating a new role to really focus on supporting our homes hosts and helping them to grow, so they created a new role for me, and here I am! I feel incredibly lucky to have found this place and this role.
You are currently on a Host Community listening tour, what’s the aim and why are you doing it?
For me our hosts really are our customers, so it is incredibly important that I know what their priorities are, what they want us to work on and what their biggest concerns are – so that I can ensure my team and the rest of Airbnb are working on the most important topics. On this trip I’m visiting 5 different cities; Tokyo, Sydney, Rome, London and Toronto, in just 12 days! (I didn’t want to be away from my little ones too long so I’m cramming it in). In each place I’m spending lots of quality time with our hosts. I’m staying with hosts in each location (of course!) and have so enjoyed getting to know them and their stories. We are also having Q&A sessions, where I share more about what Airbnb is working on and gathering community advice, plus the hosts have the opportunity to ask questions and let me know what their top priorities are!
It’s not just you on the tour, who has joined you?
Well…Lizzie is my one trusted (entertaining, funny and occasionally loopy!) companion for the whole trip, along with the wonderfully talented Erin and Tim, who are taking some photos and videos. Then in each of the locations we are meeting with the local teams and Country Managers. I also have had several folks from my team in San Francisco join for different sections; our Head of Marketing (Nat), our head of Host Research (Louise), our Community Education Leader (Joh), Host Community Leaders (Anna and Nora), our head of regional connections (and policy expert!) Jen … basically a great bunch of people who spend every day thinking about and working with (and for!) hosts. They’ve all loved the opportunity to come out and really hear the voice of our hosts (and they all wish they could have been on the entire trip!). I also met up with Srin and Brittany in Tokyo – they were just finishing a trip around APAC to help hosts learn more about accessibility. I can’t encourage you all enough to learn more about accessibility … you can read more about their work here. I am such a fan of the work that they’re doing. It helps guests with accessibility needs around the world easily find a place to belong (and one of my children is in a wheelchair, so as you can imagine I feel particularly passionate about this work!)
How impactful is this to hosts going forward?
When you break it down, my job is really to be the voice of hosts, to be their champion back at Airbnb. The more I can really tell the story of hosts and share what is on their minds and what their priorities are, then the better job I can do at taking that back and making sure my team are really focused on building the right things. Plus, I can influence other teams around Airbnb; whether that’s a team working on cancellation policies or pricing advice. There are a lot of teams who are doing a lot of work on behalf of hosts and it is really important that they have these insights as well.
This isn’t the only way you are listening to hosts?
There are lots of ways we speak to hosts. The Community Center is fantastic and we get great summaries and I'm here as often as I can be (Lizzie always highlights important conversations for me, and the team helps me translate and respond in 12 languages). We also do a tremendous amount of research (thanks to Louise and her team!) and regular Q&As; and so there are many different ways that we gain a connection with hosts, and we really try to synthesise the information shared and work out what the priorities are, to make sure we are working on these. I’m actually about to hire a head of Host Feedback, and I’m confident that they will do an outstanding job in helping us listen even better.
You have been staying in an array of different listings during the tour, can you tell us more?
In Tokyo I stayed in a private home with a wonderful host, Wakana. She was so delightful! She showed me around the local area and we saw the cherry blossoms, she took me to her local temple, and we had so much green tea and talked, plus we played with her cats / co-hosts. It was fantastic … I really got a glimpse of living in Tokyo!
In Rome, I stayed with a host called Antonella. She is just the most delightful person! Her listing is amazing (she’s an architect by training, and it’s only steps from the Pantheon), and Antonella makes gorgeous necklaces for her guests - it takes her over 2 hours for each one but that doesn’t feel like work for her - it’s a creative outlet. We had so much fun, I feel like I have a new best friend in Rome.
In Sydney I tried out something new and stayed at a Boutique Hotel. I haven’t done that before with Airbnb, but I figured given we just bought Hotel Tonight I should see what the experience was like!! The Hotel was so gorgeous - it felt really quaint, super local, and the hosts made me feel totally at home.
In London I stayed in another private room with the delightful Silvia. It was a quick trip but we went out for breakfast at a gorgeous cafe just across the street, and I was so happy to have some hot cross buns!
Then finally in Toronto I stayed with Dana. It was a flat under her home (she also has some private rooms in her home). And it was beyond delightful! We had coffee and a chat in her main home (being quiet to not wake up her other guests!) and she has a fabulous story - and amazing taste in interior design. I could have stayed and talked for hours on end.
Any key surprises?
One of the things I have heard pretty consistently, is the importance of community connection. It’s been really key in both Tokyo and Sydney. Hosts are doing lots of work and it can sometimes feel quite isolating, it’s not like you are in an office space and you are surrounded by colleagues. Think of how valuable your colleagues are to you, they are the people you share ideas, learn with, vent with, sometimes have a beer or a glass of wine with and celebrate those happy moments. Nearly every host I have spoken with has shared how important it is for them to be connected with each other, and also with Airbnb. I had suspected that was the case, but it became even more clear to me on this trip so I need to go back and look at extra ways that we can support unity. It was also great to get super detailed and clear feedback on our policies and products - we have lots of work to do there too!
It wouldn’t be a Community Spotlight without a fun fact. So, what’s yours?
My parents were one of the first people in Australia to become Airbnb hosts. They listed their lovely little home (a former dairy shed in Daylesford, Australia) and it helped to fund their amazing retirement (they sailed around the world for 13 years!) . My uncle is also a host (and a very proud Superhost!) in Phillip Island, Australia. Hosting is very much part of my family - it’s in my blood!
Anything to add?
Wow - just a huge thank you to everyone that has met with us and of course the Airbnb teams who have been such wonderful hosts in their countries. I feel so incredibly energised and inspired to go back and do some great work on your behalf.
Thank you so much Laura for sharing more about yourself and your listening tour.
As always, please do share your comments and thoughts here, I’m sure Laura would love to hear from you.
You must have an incredible place to have converted an old cowshed.
What vintage was it?
It takes an amazing person to care for people who are wheelchair bound.
Did you have to do many alterations to your home to accommodate a wheelchair user?
I wish houses were all made to recognize differing abilities as Councils around the world should be embracing all peoples needs when building housing.
All the best
Hi @Helen427 ! So lovely to hear from you :)
The cowshed was pretty tiny - and I think about 100 years old? My uncle and mum did some great work converting it. It is so cute (but very rustic!) and on a nice piece of land with lots of kangaroos and native birds. I was married on the property!
We are in the process of designing a renovation for our own house to make it accessible (ramps, wider doorways, accessible bathrooms) ... Srin's helping me look through our plans. It's not cheap to do but there aren't a lot of other options.
I couldn't agree more about helping the whole world be more accessible! We just went on a family trip to Give Kids the World Village in Orlando ... the entire place is accessible (rides, shuttles, homes, playgrounds). It was absolutely incredible what a difference it made to feel completely welcome everywhere - and it made me realize how far we have to go in the rest of the world. Right now accessibility still feels like an 'optional extra' instead of something simply built into design.
Thats' so cool, love it.
Now for you Daylesford , Melbourne, Victoria, Australia people, here's a little local history you can reflect on to learn about those before you and what they lived through..
Do you still have Mulberries and tabacoo growing in the area of Daylesford?
And gold nuggest??
From trove Australia
and from the National library website, Papers Past NZ.
A DISASTROUS Tl^ffiE IN
A TOWN'S ESCAPE.
MAN LOSES HIS LIFE
United Press Association— By Electric Telegraph. — Copyright. Received January 24, 10 a.m Melbourne, January 24. The - heat wave is accompanied by disastrous bush fires in every direction. The town of Daylesford. ; , narrowly escaped being swept , away .■ • /.» ;r; r A fire is now raging along.' frontage of ten miles. ' . '^ t< •» It. is feared the whole" 'country between Daylesford and Castlemaine is' doomed unless the wind abates. Many thousand of acres of grass, and in some' cases- crops,' have been destroyed. Shops and houses on, the outskirts, of Daylesford were burnt. ,-, „ One man lost his life while saving' his effects.
Tobacco has been successfully grown at Daylesford. One acre and a half has yielded one ton and a half of Virginian and Maryland tobacco, which the owner expects will realize £120 per ton.
Dec 12. Topham, Angus and'Smythe are the lowest tenderers for the Daylesford railway, 22 miles, at £84,000.
You may like to make a book with some of the articles and photographs for your Guests, and friends to share.
Do you have any photos of the cowshed, before, during and after, including older ones from 100 years ago?
They sure did things differently in those days.
Give Kids the World Village in Orlando looks amazing, I've sent the link to a media connection ..
@Helen427 I don't have before pics unfortunately but this is what it looks like now (my parents recently sold it): https://www.realestate.com.au/sold/property-house-vic-daylesford-127176090
Helen these articles are amazing! Are you a historian in your spare time? (I majored in History at University, so I spent hours trawling old newspapers and getting immersed in stories like these ... it's a spectacular way to spend time)
Hello Laura, I was very interested to read this article and pleased to see that Hosts will have representation within Airbnb, at such an important time of change in the business as it moves towards IPO.
I read this article 2 weeks after it was posted, with 1700+ views, and was disappointed, but not suprised, to see that only 4 people have commented on the article and only 14 gave it a ‘thumbs up’. I think this is indicative of the challenge that you face to try and engage with a global host community which is feeling somewhat neglected.
I have hosted over 400 guests through Airbnb and use Airbnb when I travel, but I have never been asked by Airbnb, how it could improve the host and guest experience in order to help grow its business. So please feel free to tap into your experienced host community, we are keen to help you in your new role.
It would also be great if you could champion some of the really important host concerns that come up repeatedly in the community forums. Topics such as guest identity validation and associated host safety, and improving the quality of the review system for both hosts and guests. These areas could be addressed with only a small amount of investment, and deliver Airbnb tangible business growth.
We look forward to hearing about your plans and watch your progress with interest. Good luck.
@Barbara-and-Mike0 ... thanks so much for your really thoughtful response, and I'm excited to partner with you (and our other amazing hosts) on this journey. A significant part of my job is to do exactly what you suggested - champion the really important host concerns that come up consistently. I have a running list of the top concerns from here (and elsewhere) and am constantly working on ensuring we're improving them. Maybe I can do an article on that some day! Also - I just hired a wonderful person to be the lead for Safety for our Homes organization (she starts this week), and a key part of her mandate is to focus on Host Safety. The need for this focus became super clear to me as I read through all the feedback from the Guest Profile picture change (and it was also a hot topic during my listening tour). She's also run review systems in the past at other companies so I know she can help make impact there. Once she's caught her breath (onboarding is intense!) I'll bring her over here to introduce her.
Its a great initiativeness with much more live connections with happy journey I am sure. As you aware country like Sri Lanka (the best country to travel in 2019 as announced by Longly Planet at the begining of this year) we need toutch of people like you at this point. That will be a great support to promote and strengthen reconciliation process in the country. Of course we are ready as Airbnb Host community to welcome your team and make all necessary arrangements to facilitate such Airbnb travel to Sri Lanka with a great purpose. Looking forward to see you in Sri Lanka. Samantha