Airbnb is colliding with traditional hotel companies like Marriott International and Hilton. In just over a decade, the online lodging marketplace has assembled an inventory of more than 7 million rooms — six times as much lodging capacity as Marriott managed to accumulate over 60-plus years. In terms of U.S. consumer spending, Airbnb overtook Hilton in 2018 and is on track to move ahead of Marriott.1
Although Airbnb serves similar consumer needs, it is a completely different kind of company. Marriott and Hilton own and manage properties, with tens of thousands of employees in separate organizations devoted to enabling and delivering customer experiences. And whereas the two traditional lodging companies are made up of clusters of different groups and brands, with siloed business units and functions equipped with their own information technology, data, and organizational structures, Airbnb takes a radically different approach: Its core function is to match users to hosts who have unique homes or rooms to rent on a daily basis, via its platform. In the process, Airbnb accumulates customer data, mining it for insights and to produce predictive models to inform key decisions. It is often able to give its customers a superior experience, with far fewer employees, than its hotel-industry competitors.