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Airbnb boss says company has kept local communities at the core of expansion plan

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Airbnb boss says company has kept local communities at the core of expansion plan
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REUTERS/Gabrielle Lurie
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American rental website Airbnb has revolutionised how people travel in current times. Opting for more “authentic” experiences, many tourists use the platform to book accommodation in a local's home when travelling.

But now the company wants to expand and become a “travel super brand,” Greg Greeley, the company’s head of homes, told Euronews’ Damon Embling at the ITB convention in Berlin.

In order to achieve that goal, Airbnb has developed products offering customers a more complete travel experience that stays close to the company's "local and authentic" motto-like “experience” service, where travellers can book activities offered by local hosts. Another new service is Airbnb Plus, which offers accommodations with very specific characteristics.

“Our platform is a platform for magical travelling, and, by magical, I mean providing a unique, authentic experience,” emphasised Greeley.

But that's not all. The company is also looking to change the way people travel.

In order to visualise this plan, Airbnb hired the former CEO of Virgin America, Fred Reid, to figure out how the company can renovate transportation.

While Airbnb has become the expert in the home-sharing business, many criticise it for bringing mass tourism to already crowded areas and pushing locals out of their homes, something that Greeley denies.

“Housing availability was a challenge before Airbnb, so we’ve become sort of a scapegoat. We are helping our hosts afford their apartments,” he said.

According to Greeley, 70% of the listings on the platform are outside main tourist locations so money is going to areas that may not have the same economic empowerment in comparison with more popular areas.

In Barcelona, Airbnb is working with the local government to create the right framework for the platform, he said.

When asked how his company addressed more local concerns, as people sometimes see Airbnb as sweeping into a community and taking money away from it, Greeley responded that that was not the case.

"97% of what the host charges stays with them," he said.

"We absolutely care about the local community."