Thursday, 21 June, 2018

Airbnb Plus: New luxury service offers standardized, hotel-like stays

ImageA home in Austin Tex. listed on Airbnb ImageA home in Austin Tex. listed on Airbnb
Grady Vargas | 23 February, 2018, 06:32

Airbnb, the company best known for cheaper accommodation options and home stays, is eyeing to make the service more mainstream by adding new property types, including hotels, as well as new tiers and collections in order to catapult the company to the largest accommodation platform with 1 billion annual guests by 2028. It's also launching "Superguests" later this summer with a 10,000-guest pilot coming in the spring.

"Ten years ago we never dreamed of what Airbnb could become", Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky said in a statement.

Airbnb hosts must apply to be part of the program, and a photographer and inspector are then sent to the home to capture professional-quality photographs and inspect the property to see if it meets Airbnb's new 100-point quality checklist.

As Airbnb has tried to begin turning itself into a kind of experience machine with the launch of Experiences, it's trying to cater itself as an alternative and more robust option in the hospitality industry. It lists roughly 4.5 million homes for rent in more than 81,000 cities.

Chesky said that in addition to those categories, Airbnb will be adding "thousands" of search categories, so that guests will be able to search for categories and amenities as varied and specific as Rustic, Balcony, Family Friendly, Near Zoo, Crib, etc.

The series of announcements will be made today in a 10 a.m. press conference held for members of the media and Airbnb staff at The Masonic in San Francisco.

The company also risks alienating homeowners, who were the first to use Airbnb and are among its fiercest advocates. In San Francisco, for example, after initially fighting city officials, Airbnb in May agreed to kick hosts off the platform if they didn't register with the city - a practice the company put into place at the beginning of this year.

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Chesky credits the success to Airbnb so far to the dedication of Superhosts, and in the Roadmap, plans to reward them even further. Earlier this month, Airbnb tapped Belinda Johnson as its first chief operating officer, elevating her from her former role as chief business affairs and legal officer.

Despite its focus on Airbnb's future, Thursday's event also echoed Airbnb's flashy November 2016 unveiling of Experiences in Los Angeles.

Airbnb is taking on high-end luxury hotels with Airbnb Plus, a subset of homes from only the highest-rated hosts. Despite its popularity, Airbnb remains unprofitable, with a loss of $75 million on revenue of almost $2.6 billion past year, according to financial statements reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

And it's on the verge of making the company money.

Finally, Airbnb is redesigning its website to include more personalized collections for travelers to choose from.

All the changes have spurred buzz about a potential upcoming Airbnb IPO. By the end of the year, Chesky foresees verifying 75,000 homes in 50 cities. "We're working on getting ready to go public and we will make decisions about going public on our own timetable".

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