Away from the usual rhetoric, online peer-to-peer usually serves one or two purposes and rarely extends beyond that. The concept of an online community has been widely debated since the inception of the web and more recently with the rise of social media. The latter has augmented the experience but it is through features like Facebook’s Safety Check that the real sense of community starts yielding tangible results.

In the travel industry, peer-to-peer sites have been trying to build on the concept of community to feed and grow their users’ loyalty. Yet again, very few have managed to obtain any tangible results – at least until recently.

Summer 2016 has brought a lot of business for the hospitality industry, but there were also some challenges. Beyond the threats of terrorism and unstable conflict areas, we saw also how nature can turn violent and shatter whole communities (the real ones). We have seen how hurricanes devastated Louisiana and Hawaii. How the earth shook in central Italy and how the waters flooded through Hyderabad, India.

These disasters usually trigger all sorts of charitable actions, but one that I am really moved to share with you is the one enabled and facilitated by Airbnb Hosts.

As the online “crowd” witnessed the horrors of losing your home in a natural disaster, they wanted to offer their money-making vacation rental or extra Airbnb room to the afflicted “community”. Airbnb was able to respond quickly to such need, threw in some technology and managed, perhaps without being aware at that point in time, to create a real and tangible community.

Kudos to the Airbnb Hosts who could and did help. Kudos to Airbnb who looked beyond the bottom line and responded promptly.