Airbnb is starting up an experimental design group to work on odd new hospitality projects that could one day become major company initiatives. The group is called Samara, and its first project is to build "community centers" to draw tourists to small, little-traveled towns.
FastCo Design has a preview of Samara's first community center, which is being built for Yoshino, Japan. Samara's hope is that the center will draw new people to the town, serve as a meeting place for residents and visitors alike, and encourage residents to open up their spare rooms to Airbnb. It's supposed to be a win-win for both the town it's placed in, by boosting tourism, and Airbnb, by drawing more travelers.
Something between a community center and a hotel
This first building is currently being displayed at a concept home exhibit in Tokyo, according to FastCo. After the exhibit closes, it'll be brought to Yoshino and open soon thereafter.
The building in Yoshino will have a kitchen, a communal dining table, and a publicly available living room. It'll also include bedrooms, which will be rented out on Airbnb. Airbnb will not own or operate the space, however — that's all being left up to local groups, who will receive all profits beyond Airbnb's standard cut.
Samara hasn't said where it plans to go next, but FastCo reports that it does plan on expanding the community center project to other small towns with dwindling resources. "Since we started, we’ve gotten calls from people in the UK, China, Korea, Spain, France, and Italy, all with the same problem," Joe Gebbia, an Airbnb co-founder, tells FastCo.
Update August 3rd, 4PM ET: Airbnb says that groups in Yoshino will own and operate the community center, receiving all profits from travelers that a typical Airbnb host would receive. The story has been updated to reflect this.