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Airbnb pledges to put hosts at front and center of business

The home rental service says it's becoming more accountable to hosts. CEO Brian Chesky even changed his title to CEO and Head of Community.

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky (center) meets with hosts in San Francisco and pledges to give them more say in the company's business.

Airbnb wants to get back to its roots.

The home rental service said Tuesday that it's putting more of an emphasis on being a community. The company said it's taking a number of steps to foster this approach and give hosts more of a voice, including creating a Host Advisory Council, having quarterly Facebook Live events and expanding the number of Airbnb organizing clubs for hosts from 100 to 1,000 worldwide.

Airbnb Chief Executive Officer Brian Chesky said he's even changing his title to CEO and Head of Community.

Airbnb "started as much more of a community. It became a business," Chesky said during an event for hosts and the press at the company's San Francisco headquarters Tuesday. However, "I'm not only the leader of the business. I often think of myself as the leader of the community."

The company's announcement comes at a time when other on-demand services, like ride-hailing company Uber, have been criticized for not doing enough for the people who help run their businesses. Just last week, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick upset the driver community after he was recorded getting into an argument with a driver over falling pay.

Airbnb, on the other hand, has worked to curry favor with its users. Chris Lehane, the company's head of global policy, said Tuesday that the company is well supported by its hosts. This favorability has helped the company in its political battles with regulators worldwide.

Airbnb has gone from being a website that catered to couch surfers to having a massive online presence in just under a decade. It lists roughly 3 million homes for rent in more than 65,000 cities in 191 countries. As Airbnb has grown, city regulators around the world have cracked down on the company and implemented rules like caps on how many nights hosts can rent their homes and limits on the number of places each host can list.

Lehane said it's common to see hosts show up at city council meetings and reach out to legislators about these issues. One of the ideas for the Airbnb host clubs is for hosts to be able to organize and advocate for more accommodating laws for short-term rentals.

Along with the additional host clubs and Facebook Live events, Chesky and other top company executives will travel to 26 cities over the next three weeks to meet with hosts and discuss their needs. The company will also invite select hosts to one company board meeting a year.

Chesky said he runs Airbnb with a hands-on approach with engineers and office employees, so it makes sense that he'd extend the same to hosts.

"This is more about us putting community at the center of what we are," Chesky said.

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