The commercial success that Airbnb has garnered in the last ten years is undisputed. Not content with just becoming the market leader in short-term home rentals, the company has since gone on to offer its users travel advice, in-depth guides based on local knowledge, and personalized experiences lead by local hosts to further foster its tightly knit and ever growing community.
Speaking at Brainstorm Design this week, Airbnb’s director of transportation Jenny Arden emphasized that Airbnb’s approach was still very much rooted in design. ‘My role at Airbnb has been a design role. I’ve been a design director and so I’ve had the responsibility of representing the users – that’s the ultimate job to represent that voice and make sure that the customer has not been forgotten in the strategy, the planning and development. My transition is now into a business role [and covers things] you wouldn’t normally put the designer responsible for.’
She continues, ‘The reason we are doing this, is that we believe that first and foremost, as a business, we design the products that people need, that they want. Then from there, a strategy unfolds and you start to discover. A lot of what I do is similar to a start-up. I act as an entrepreneur and founder – there is no job too small.’
In her current role, Arden plays a galvanising force in shaping Airbnb’s latest ambition: to revolutionise the air travel and transportation aspects of travelling, as was revealed publicly last month. Building on the company’s aspirations to become a one-stop shop for all aspects of the travel experience, the company has also recently hired Fred Reid, formerly the CEO and founder of Virgin America, to serve as its global head of transportation.
While the exact focus on what transportation may entail for the company is still being kept under wraps, Arden states, ‘Our mission at Airbnb is to provide a world where anyone can belong anywhere. This really means you can travel to a community you’ve never seen before and feel like you’re a welcome member there, even if it’s just temporarily. My hope is that all that mission and vision can be achieved in all stages of the trip. There should be no lack of thought that went into the end-to-end experience.’ Watch this space.
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Pei-Ru Keh is a former US Editor at Wallpaper*. Born and raised in Singapore, she has been a New Yorker since 2013. Pei-Ru held various titles at Wallpaper* between 2007 and 2023. She reports on design, tech, art, architecture, fashion, beauty and lifestyle happenings in the United States, both in print and digitally. Pei-Ru took a key role in championing diversity and representation within Wallpaper's content pillars, actively seeking out stories that reflect a wide range of perspectives. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, and is currently learning how to drive.
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