Airbnb, the “official alternative accommodation service” for the Olympic Games, has made a big investment into Rio and it’s is already paying off. A city that once lacked enough hotels and is living under Brazil’s recession has meant big opportunity for the homesharing marketplace.
“It is the first time we are bringing home-sharing officially to the Olympic Games,” said Leonardo Tristao, Brazil country manager for Airbnb. “We are ensuring that anyone who wants to come to attend the Olympics has a place to stay in Rio.”
In preparation for the Olympics, Airbnb has worked in coordination with the organizing committee to encourage people to open up their homes for visitors.
They have also worked directly with local communities to get them engaged through webinars and events to share “best practices” among themselves.
It hasn’t been that difficult of a sell. A Brazilian recession has meant many homeowners are looking for supplemental income.
“A lot of people in the community have lost their jobs and Airbnb has become — for them — their only source of income,” said Tristao.
Airbnb says more than 66,000 people have confirmed their stay at Airbnb for the Olympics.
Some people are even choosing to stay in Brazil’s poorest areas — the favelas.
Airbnb has a strong trust and safety team that proactively monitors its listings, said Tristao.
“For Airbnb, it is all about how do we ensure safety to our community, and that also applies to the Rio Games,” he added.
Of course, Airbnb will have to keep an eye out for locals overcharging for rooms, as it had to do during the Super Bowl earlier this year in California and at other large events.
Brazil got its first taste of homesharing two years ago.
“The very first chapter of Airbnb in Brazil was the World Cup,” said Tristao. “And they realized that was a really nice experience. Word of mouth is spread out in Rio. They were able to get additional income because of that. They were able to get a cultural exchange, which was amazing. And I think that was a natural path for the community to grow two years later.”
Today, Brazil is the fourth biggest city for Airbnb, after Paris, New York and London. In the past year, the number of listings in the country has grown to from 20,000 to more than 38,000.
And it’s not just foreigners using the service.
Tristao said in 2014, bookings from Brazilians represented only 6 percent of bookings. Today, that number has grown to 50 percent.
“Brazilians are naturally hospitable,” said Tristao. “It’s in our blood.”
DISCLOSURE: CNBC parent NBCUniversal owns NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. NBC Olympics is the U.S. broadcast rights holder to all Summer and Winter Games through the year 2032.