Condé Nast Traveller Middle East - - Tastemaker - – SK

The story is stuff of leg­end: San Fran­cisco room­mates Brian and Joe were strug­gling to pay the rent. There was a big con­fer­ence com­ing to town and ho­tels were booked solid. Why not put three in­flat­able mat­tresses on the liv­ing-room floor and ad­ver­tise them on­line? A third friend, Nathan, who knew about com­puter stuff, was en­listed to sort the web­site. They called it Airbnb. That was in 2008. A decade later, it’s an AED 110bn be­he­moth, an icon of the shar­ing econ­omy, which has trans­formed the travel choices of mil­lions. Sure, couch-surf­ing or house swap­ping wasn’t new, but what the trio did was dif­fer­ent – they cre­ated trust and hu­man con­nec­tions. They made it look safe, they made it look easy, they made it look de­sir­able. Now they have in­tro­duced guided tours, hosted ex­pe­ri­ences and a restau­rant-reser­va­tions er vice, aim­ing not just at dis­rupt­ing the ho­tel busi­ness but the whole travel in­dus­try. True, it hasn’t al­ways been plain sail­ing and Airbnb isn’t be­yond crit­i­cism. But it has changed ev­ery­thing.

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