After taking a big chunk out of the hotel business, Airbnb are finally getting into… the hotel business. The online marketplace has just launched Samara, an urban planning and design studio that recently put the finishing touches on its inaugural design project — a cedar wood guest house soon to open in the small town of Yoshino, Japan.
Designed in conjunction with local architect Go Hasegawa, the dwelling features multiple bedrooms, a communal living area and a 16-foot-long dining table. It's currently on display in Tokyo as part of the House Vision exhibition, but will be transported to Yoshino in October, where it will function as a community centre that doubles as visitor accommodation.
"Imagine it's lunch time and you're eating and at the end of the table there's a community meeting taking place," Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia told Fast Company Design. "I picture Western guests walking up, stepping inside, and you're interacting with the community from the minute you arrive. If you want to tour the sake factory, or the chopstick factory, or take a hike, the locals are right there."
Apparently the whole idea was inspired by an elderly woman in Tsuyama Okayama, who created a mini tourism boom in town after listing her home on Airbnb. The hope is that the Yoshino house generates similar interest. Of course, that's assuming that locals actually want an influx of Western visitors — although the town did donate the land for the project, so presumably they're on board.
"If this works, there are a lot of villages in Japan that could benefit," said Gebbia. Indeed, the plan seems to be to expand the project globally, with Gebbia mentioning that the company had received calls from people in places such as the UK, China, Korea, Spain, France, and Italy.