Based in San Francisco, Airbnb was a privately owned accommodation rental company. It enabled hosts around the world to list and rent out their properties or rooms to guests who used the website to find a place to stay – from a shared room in an apartment to a whole villa or castle. Nathan Blecharczyk, CTO & co-founder of Airbnb, described the concept of Airbnb: “Airbnb allows travelers to stay in someone else’s home. We make it as easy to book someone else’s home as it is to book a hotel.” In 2011, a further funding of $112 million pushed the value of the company to over $1 billion, making Airbnb a “unicorn” in Silicon Valley. By the end of 2016, eight years after it was formally launched, Airbnb had 3 million listings, including 3,000 castles and 1,400 treehouses in more than 65,000 cities and 191 countries. Its market value was estimated at $30 billion, making it the second most valued start-up company in the world, behind Uber ($68 billion). Airbnb had become a key player in the hospitality industry, with a value just below the $35 billion market cap of Marriott International, the world’s largest hotel chain. Airbnb defined itself as “a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodation around the world.” The start-up provided the platform to facilitate the transactions, but was not the provider of the ultimate service – the accommodation. To manage expectations, Airbnb ensured that each listing offered an accurate portrayal of the amenities and the type of experience guests would find, by listing the accommodation’s advantages as well as potential negative aspects. Airbnb strongly believed that high-quality pictures would make a key difference, and professional photograph services were provided in most cities free of charge. 3 For years, hoteliers had claimed that Airbnb and hotels did not compete for the same customers, since hotels catered to business and luxury travelers, while Airbnb appealed to budget and leisure travelers. This changed when Airbnb adapted its offer to appeal to the highly profitable business travel segment, the bread and butter of hotels. Airbnb for Business – “Business travel ready” lodgings, was launched in 2015, had to meet various criteria, such as high customer ratings, 24/7 access to the property, an entire home or apartment, wi-fi, and a laptop-friendly workspace. In July 2016, Airbnb announced a partnership with three of the world’s biggest corporate-travel bookers, thus putting Airbnb properties on the list of options for employees when booking a business trip. In an effort to diversify its services, Airbnb began to develop a flight-booking service to compete with leading travel-booking sites, like Expedia and Priceline. In February 2017, Airbnb made its biggest acquisition, spending about $300 million to acquire Luxury Retreats. With 4,000 properties around the world, this Canadian company specialized in high-end rentals. The deal gave Airbnb access to the highly profitable luxury market to appeal to elite travelers, while also enabling it to offer Luxury Retreats’ concierge service to its other customers.”

a. (Formulatea short SWOT analysis for Airbnb company based on the article.

b. Despite the different market segment, it is undeniable that Airbnb has become one of biggest rivals to the hotel industry. Define five competitive advantages that Airbnb has over the traditional hotels in terms of providing products or services to fulfil guests’

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