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Airbnb plans to build community centers in small towns

Airbnb is starting up an experimental design group to work on odd new hospitality projects that could one day become major company initiatives. The group is called Samara, and its first project is to build “community centers” to draw tourists to small, little-traveled towns.

FastCo Design has a preview of Samara’s first community center, which is being built for Yoshino, Japan. Samara’s hope is that the center will draw new people to the town, serve as a meeting place for residents and visitors alike, and encourage residents to open up their spare rooms to Airbnb. It’s supposed to be a win-win for both the town it’s placed in, by boosting tourism, and Airbnb, by drawing more travelers.

Something between a community center and a hotel

This first building is currently being displayed at a concept home exhibit in Tokyo, according to FastCo. After the exhibit closes, it’ll be brought to Yoshino and open soon thereafter.

airbnb samara house-news-Airbnb/Edward Caruso

Airbnb/Edward Caruso

If you’re inclined toward skepticism, you could go so far as to say that Samara’s community centers are really Airbnb’s first hotels. Not only are they meant as meeting places — Yoshino’s will have a kitchen, a communal dining table, and a publicly available living room — but they’ll also include bedrooms. It’s not stated whether Airbnb will wholly own and operate the buildings, but if it does, then these are essentially tiny hotels.

Samara hasn’t said where it plans to go next, but FastCo reports that it does plan on expanding the community center project to other small towns with dwindling resources. “Since we started, we’ve gotten calls from people in the UK, China, Korea, Spain, France, and Italy, all with the same problem,” Joe Gebbia, an Airbnb co-founder, tells FastCo.

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