Airbnb Hosts Advocate Locally to Welcome Guests Globally

Spread across 220 countries and regions, the more than 4 million hosts on Airbnb are the foundation of our community and our company. In addition to providing guests with connections to local communities and locally-owned businesses, hosts play an additional key role: advocates. 

By supporting and championing other hosts in their own communities, these advocates engage with local leaders to ensure Airbnb remains an important economic driver in the places they call home. Since 2016, more than 150,000 hosts have advocated for their local communities by sending more than 800,000 emails and tweets to local lawmakers.*

Peter Kwan (San Francisco, CA)

Peter welcomed his first guest in September of 2011. His roommate had moved to Germany and around the same time, his sister (who lives in Hong Kong) began sending her children to study in the US.; she wanted to spend time with Peter in San Francisco whenever she came to the states. On top of that, his mother (who lives in Sydney, Australia) also wanted to visit Peter in the City by the Bay. Since he only had one spare bedroom, he needed to keep it vacant for their visits. So, what was he supposed to do with the extra space when family wasn’t in town? A friend suggested he list that bedroom on Airbnb – that way, he could generate income to offset the cost of the extra room and block off the dates when his family visited. Cut to today, where Peter has more than 500 reviews for his listing in San Francisco.

“When I started hosting, there weren’t many local resources for hosts. There were no books nor online forums where you could learn about hosting, exchange ideas, and help each other out. So, I posted on Craigslist asking if there were other hosts who were interested in getting together to share information about a range of topics like insurance, local zoning laws, and tips like where to buy the best sheets and other supplies. The four people at that first meeting in my living room grew to an online and offline community of thousands. Monthly meetings were attended by 25-30 people.” 

Peter Kwan, Airbnb Superhost

As founder and past co-chair of San Francisco’s Home Sharers Democratic Club, the leading home sharing group in San Francisco, Peter has attended city meetings to comment on proposals and issues, met with city councilmembers, written op-eds, and led workshops to help educate fellow hosts. This work led to a favorable agreement with San Francisco City in 2017 to legalize short-term rentals and provide stability to our host community. 

Peter also recognized the importance of the senior host community, many of whom depend on hosting to make ends meet. Typically, senior hosts are extremely involved and engaged in neighborhood communities. So, he started a group called Golden Hosts for seniors to provide a forum to share knowledge and help each other out. 

As a guest, Peter has stayed in countless Airbnbs hosted by others. You can check out one of his favorite listings, in Peru, here.

Peter’s must-visit destination in San Francisco: Chinatown. “Most visitors to Chinatown spend their time on or around Grant Avenue. That is understandable since the shops, restaurants and buildings there are emblematic of San Francisco Chinatown. But I encourage and often take my guests down Stockton Street (between Columbus and the Stockton Tunnel) instead. That is where the local Chinese community shop for food and eat out; that’s where I shop every week.”

Sandy Martin (Seattle, WA)

Sandy’s hosting journey took a bit longer than Peter’s. She was living in Silicon Valley at the time and spent most weekends in San Francisco. A friend of hers, who lived in the city, was an early adopter of Airbnb and began hosting in 2009. He thought she would also be a great host and was constantly on her to try it. Already working 60+ hours a week, she originally said, “No way!” 

By 2013, she had left the Bay Area for Seattle where she owned a home that she moved into. She was looking for a new direction in her work life – one that did not involve 60-hour work weeks – and also wanted to live near one of her children. While contemplating this, she decided to visit her son who was living in Los Angeles. She booked an Airbnb a few blocks from his home so they could easily get together. The second morning she woke up in LA, it was sunny and beautiful, and as she looked around her nicely-appointed room, and her first thought was, “I can do this. I can host!”

When she came home from that trip, she quickly decided which bedroom would work for Airbnb guests. She called a friend – the one who had been encouraging her to host for years – and asked him every question she could think of. He answered every single one and walked her through the process of setting things up and getting ready for guests’ arrivals. In a short time, the room was set up and she was on the Airbnb platform. Within a few hours of listing, she had her first booking for the following day. Within two months of her first guest, she added a second, larger bedroom to her hosting portfolio. Six years later, Sandy continues to welcome guests to Seattle and has nearly 1,000 reviews of her listings. 

“After hosting for a bit, I was at a point where I wanted to connect more with others within the greater Airbnb community. I grew up in a family that volunteered and always looked towards, “How can we contribute to make things even a bit better than when we first encountered this?” That ethic has left me with leadership and entrepreneurial abilities skills that have not only helped my careers, but also with community organizing in Seattle.” 

Sandy Martin, Airbnb Superhost

As a Superhost, Sandy sprung into action and testified to support hosting in front of Seattle’s City Council, became a leader of Seattle’s ‘Host Leadership Team’ and even attended Airbnb’s global host festival and conference in 2016.

“It was incredible to attend a festival where Airbnb brought hosts together, educating and entertaining us and giving us access to it’s leaders for discussion and feedback.”

Sandy played an important role in advocating for fair short-term rental regulations in the City of Seattle. Over nearly two years, hosts like Sandy shared their stories and feedback with city leaders at public hearings and through emails and phone calls. In 2017, the City Council passed a progressive set of STR rules, including the creation of a registration system, that resulted in regulatory certainty for hosts. 

On the other side, as a guest, Sandy has stayed with a number of Airbnb hosts. One of her favorites was a fabulous, luxury stay at Idyllwild at the San Jacinto Suite in the Jameson House.

“The host was fantastic, and the suite’s furnishings were exquisite. Every detail was done with quality, care and purpose.” Check out one of Sandy’s favorite listings here.

Sandy’s must-visit destination, surrounded by local businesses and restaurants, in Seattle: Gas Works Park.

Willy Ritch (Portland, ME)

Willy first started hosting in 2016, in Portland, Maine, and has since become an advocate for his local Airbnb community. After meeting a neighbor who was occasionally sharing their house via Airbnb and had very positive experiences, Willy gave it a go. He was traveling a lot at the time and the house was frequently empty, so he decided to become a host.

“I’ve met dozens of hosts in Portland who are just like my wife and me – they love Portland and are cheerleaders for the city. Hosting helps them pay the bills, but they also do it because it gives them an opportunity to show off our city and our state. These are hard working Portlanders who want to make a contribution to our community, and I think it’s important to tell their stories.”

Willy Ritch, Airbnb Superhost

After seeing how powerful it was to share his own story, Willy started thinking of ways of helping others share their experiences with Airbnb.

“It was gratifying to help tell the real stories of these families. We were able to highlight a wide variety of hosts – like a young family saving for their kids education to a retired professor who sometimes donates his Airbnb space to local campaign workers during election season – to help advocate for Airbnb with local city leaders.”

This year, Willy led the Portland host community’s successful effort against a referendum that would have severely restricted short-term rentals, especially at a moment in which local small businesses are facing unprecedented hardship. Thanks to hosts like Willy, short-term rentals in Portland will continue to provide a unique opportunity for local homeowners to welcome visitors to Portland while earning extra income to maintain their homes, pay their mortgages, and property taxes. Going forward, Willy and other Portland hosts will continue to work with local,elected officials to ensure that the city continues to have smart and responsible short-term rental regulations on the books.

In Maine, Willy and his wife recently hosted a screenwriter who needed a place to work on a script for a new romcom she’s writing. It was one of his most memorable hosting experiences, and Willy shared that he hopes they were successful in convincing the screenwriter to set her movie in Maine!

Willy and his wife have stayed in too many Airbnbs in the US and around the world to count, but you can check out one of his favorite listings in Old San Juan: Casa Robella.
Willy’s must-visit local businesses in Portland: Woodfords Food & Beverage, Rising Tide Brewery, Tandem Bakery, Honey Paw Restaurant, Eventide Oyster Bar, Hugo’s Restaurant.

*Data from an internal Airbnb online advocacy tool, pulled November 17, 2020.