Tag Archives: International

The Rise of Airbnb in Europe

Airbnb co-founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia have come a long way from renting out airbeds on the floor of their San Francisco apartment and hawking cereal boxes to their guests to make ends meet. With millions of apartments listed worldwide, the company’s current value stands at $31 billion, positioning it as the second-most profitable startup next to the ride-hail giant Uber. In March, financial papers reported that Airbnb’s Q3 numbers leapt a full 50% since the same time the previous year. The online service’s major successes may be due in part to its branding – Airbnb sets itself apart from other hospitality services by marketing itself as a waymaker for experience, rather than as a mere booking service. With Airbnb, the service explains, visitors can step beyond the typically packaged tourist experience and live as a local. This pitch has brought them far in their stateside expansions and is demonstrating similar success in nations abroad.

 

However, financial gains haven’t been limited to the company alone. In 2015, European hosts collectively made about $3 billion in revenue from their short-term rentals. Studies conducted by the platform’s research group further found that Airbnb guests tend to stay twice as long and spend twice as much locally than those who use traditional hotel services, with a full 42% of guest spending taking place in host neighborhoods. Analysts with the site postulate that this high guest engagement is due to Airbnb’s mission to facilitate authentic experiences; guests want to explore, rather than follow a predetermined “tourist” itinerary. Thus, Airbnb has a considerable positive impact on both domestic and international economies; in my current home city of Barcelona, the platform estimates that it generated over $175 million in 2013 alone, and further supported approximately 4,000 jobs.

 

That said, Airbnb is not content with the passive benefits it provides to city centers across the globe – it wants to do more. After releasing projections that the company will have boosted European economies by 340 billion euros by 2020, Airbnb announced its intent to invest 5 million euros in “ongoing investments for innovative, locally sourced projects” that vitalize authentic, local experiences. This is hardly a new move for the platform; to date, Airbnb has supported local projects in Barcelona, Berlin, Bologna, Dublin, Hamburg, Lisbon, Milan, and London. Airbnb has also committed itself to providing authentic travel experiences for its users by offering over 2,500 activities and tours across the world. Recently, the site even partnered with Vice Media to curate specialized tours in South Africa, Paris, New York, and Tokyo. While these planned travel experiences are offered as contest prizes to promote the partnership, they will soon be available for purchase to the general public.

 

Tourism has been forever changed by Airbnb’s entrance onto the international playing field, and we are all the better for it. Gone are the days of tourism homogenization; of grinding a city’s culture into digestible chunks for visitors. Today, travelers prize the authentic experiences that Airbnb facilitates. Airbnb has revolutionized tourism on a global scale – and we are all the better for it.

Elections Around the World

While America doesn’t need to worry about electing a new chief executive for another four years, in the rest of the world, election season is just getting started. Take a look at what’s happening on the campaign trail in France, South Korea, and Germany!

France

Under the French presidential election system, candidates must secure an absolute majority of the popular vote, but if no candidate does so, then a runoff election occurs two weeks following the first round of voting between the two candidates who garnered the most votes. This year, the first round of voting is scheduled for April 23 with a second round planned for May 7, as needed.

Although the full field consists of 11 candidates, three have emerged as frontrunners: Marine Le Pen of the Nationalist Front, who has drawn attention for her fiery populism and her disparaging remarks about immigrants as well as France’s religious and ethnic minorities; Emmanuel Macron of the centrist En Marche! (Forward!); and the center-right Francois Fillon of the Republicans.

Fillon was an early favorite to win, but his campaign suffered a nearly-fatal blow when the press revealed he had paid his wife a salary from public funds for a job she never had. Current polls now predict that Le Pen and Macron will make it to the runoff election, with Macron winning the final contest.

South Korea

Originally, the elections were scheduled for December 20, but after the impeachment and arrest of former President Park Geun-hye on corruption charges in March, the election was pushed up to May 9. In South Korea, presidents are elected by popular vote.

Although the race is only just beginning after the unexpected removal of President Park, the current favorite to win is Moon Jae-in, a former head of the leftist opposition party Minju, who has promised to rebuild the country after a decade of conservative leadership. His closest opponent, Ahn Hee-jung, trails him by 15 points.

Germany

Germany has a parliamentary system of representation where the members of the legislature, known as the Bundestag, elect a chief executive from amongst themselves; this often requires the formation of political coalitions. The voting mechanisms, however, are more complex. Each voter has two votes–one for a specific candidate for legislature and a second vote for a certain political party–which is designed to ensure that each party’s representation in the legislature is proportional to the amount of votes it received. The Bundestag elections are set for September 24, although it may take several days to form a coalition government after the polls close.

Angela Merkel, the incumbent chancellor, is up for re-election to a fourth term. She is favored to win as her party, the Christian Democrats, still lead in the polls, although it has been declining in popularity exactly as the Social Democratic Party under Martin Schulz has surged forward. At the same time, the fringe party Alternative for Germany (AfD) that is reminiscent of the alt-right in the United States has been hovering at about 10% support among voters. Key issues in the election are the economy, the future of the European Union, and the mass migration of Syrian refugees into Germany.