Airbnb was at the top of the list of employers Laura van Meer wanted to work for. In 2010 she graduated in Tourism Destination Management at BUas and when she was given the opportunity in 2018 to work for the Airbnb Barcelona office she immediately packed her suitcase.
'Airbnb is one of the main players in the travel business. I have had this company on my list for a long time,' Laura says from her Barcelona apartment. She has been working from home for weeks because of the corona crisis that also hits Airbnb in the heart. 'I work for a new branch within the company. Next to Places to stay, Airbnb also offers Experiences, which are activities with locals. We have started with offline experiences to solidify the connection between host and guest. Experiences are also very suitable to be offered online and that is what keeps me busy at the moment.'
We want people to feel at home
'The connection I feel with this company is mainly because of its mission. Anyone can belong anywhere. It is an inclusive organisation which enables a personal connection between locals and guests. We want people to feel at home. This connection is now even more important and I am happy that I can contribute to this by offering online experiences. These could be for instance a HIT workout with an Olympic athlete or a Tango Concert, but also Zooming around Paris with a Parisian or Drag Queen Story Time. All these are initiatives by locals for which we provide a platform and which contribute to a sense of belonging.'
'Next to belonging, diversity is a cornerstone within the Airbnb concept. Diversity is embedded in the Tourism Destination Management master’s programme which I completed. The programme is very culturally diverse. If I remember correctly my year of about 22 students consisted of about 19 different nationalities. This way you are more or less forced to consider other people's perspectives and this really benefits me in my current job.
'In this master’s programme I have learned to consider different lines of approach and different interests. This broader perspective is very important, especially for me, as I sometimes tend to create my own path to get to the finish line as quickly as possible. I have learned that a broad view and working together is important. Airbnb collaborates with municipalities among others, who want to support the growth and development of a destination like we do. Together we work on a regulated strategy, in which we also consider the interests of the local community.'
Affection for the travel industry
'I feel at home at Airbnb and in Barcelona, so I hope I can stay here for a while. To be honest, I have not even considered what a possible next step could be. My preference would be a start-up company, I like it when not everything is set or determined at the corporate level. I enjoy starting new projects. I have always had an affection for the travel industry and after my graduation I worked at various travel organisations and travelled a lot, but maybe at some point I need to expand my horizon in a different way.'
Connection to BUas
'I completed my bachelor in tourism at Inholland, but I feel more of a connection with BUas. I have been asked a number of times to deliver a guest lecture and I have also participated in the interview panel for the master's accreditation. I think the field work done in three different locations in the world is a strong element of the programme. You have to do a piece of research, interviews and finally provide advice all by yourself but you are offered clear pointers. The lecturers have industry experience and encourage you to start your own projects. I am now talking to the department about collaboration in the field of online experiences. BUas requests and is as such involved.'
'I continue to follow my passion and this is also what I want to impart to BUas students. Tourism is resilient. More than ever before people will have a desire to travel and experience new things. At that point you will be ready for the travel industry.'
Interview by Maaike Dukker-'t Hart