I have a love for travel and adventures. That is shown through my choice to study abroad last semester and through my startup UniflyAbroad. Therefore, I knew I wanted to write about Airbnb for this blog. It was simply a matter of what about Airbnb I should write about (so many ideas it’s hard to pick)! @oemcke did a great job talking about Airbnb overall and @clarezhou did a great job discussing their design and its inspirations (check out both of those blogs posts to learn more!). Conveniently, Airbnb just announced some exciting news and updates… What an awesome way to learn about their new innovations than to write a blog post on it! In this blog post I focus on the new innovations Airbnb is releasing and the impact I believe it will have on their user base and value.
Last week in honor of their 10th year, AirBnB announced the unveiling of 4 new plans to help bring “magical travel to everyone”. Over the last 10 years, Airbnb has grown a successful company that places a strong emphasis on community and innovation. This roadmap highlights Airbnb’s mission of expanding their user base, creating a more customized product, and improving their platform. These plans include expansions of their current offerings and completely new services. These plans also benefit both sides of their model–the hosts and the users.
Airbnb had 3 property types that users could filter through listings by: Entire Home, Private House and Shared Space. While these categories got the job done, Airbnb wanted to strengthen their platform by adding 4 new property types to increase the accuracy with which users searched for listings and hosts listed their homes. These new property types include B&B, Boutique, Unique and Vacation Home. These property types will be available this upcoming summer. Airbnb believes that this search improvement will not only help users/hosts be more transparent, but that this is just the beginning to the expansion of listing filters.
Airbnb is launching collections: the categorization of homes surrounding the needs of various types of travelers. This is done to expand who Airbnb reaches as well as aiding the expressed needs of past travelers and what they looked for. These collections include: Families, Work, Social Stays, Weddings, Honeymoons, Group Getaways and Dinner Parties. Airbnb for Families and Airbnb for Work have just launched, while the rest of the collections will come later this year.
Airbnb is now offering tiers–listings that have been verified for their quality and comfort. Tiers is broken down into two groups: Airbnb Plus and Beyond by Airbnb.
Airbnb Plus classifies homes that have been inspected in person and verified to match 100+ qualifications (cleanliness, toiletries, having a thoughtfully designed home, etc.) that ensure great homes, hosts, and “added piece of mind”. Airbnb Plus just launched and there are already 2,000 verified homes.
Airbnb Beyond was a feature that was briefly described but references that it will “will offer custom designed trips of a lifetime, including the world’s finest homes, custom experiences and world-class hospitality.” Last year, Airbnb acquired Luxury Retreats, “a full service villa rental company dedicated to creating authentic travel experiences”.
Lastly, Airbnb is focusing on strengthening their community by offering more benefits to the hosts. These include custom urls, better exposure and more. Airbnb will also be testing their new guest membership program with 10,000 guests this summer and expanding it to the greater community of Airbnb by the end of the year.
Overall, these innovations highlight Airbnb’s focus to improve every part of the user experience–from the moment a user opens Airbnb’s website, to their stay, to the submission of the review about their stay. Since the release of these new features, there has been a lot of comparison between Airbnb and hotels. While it is fair to say that this addition of Airbnb Plus makes Airbnb more similar to hotels (at least on the price point and level of comfort), the strongest competitive advantage to Airbnb is its immersion and engagement with local community members.
While doing this research and learning about the way Airbnb is making their unique listings and hosts stand out, I was constantly reminded that Airbnb offers so much more than a place to stay. While traveling as a student, I have not been able to take advantage of the top listings, but I have also not been deprived of the local experience as well. When thinking back on my own Airbnb experiences, I have learned something new about the local area from each visit. The prices do not always reflect the quality of the experience. Some of the best hosts have set very reasonable prices! While there may have been one less cup than there were guests, that was not what mattered. Rather, it was the connection I made with the host and the local area.
With these new additions to Airbnb, the opportunity for users to customize their visits through the new collections feature and Super Host system will make for a more comfortable stay that will not be forgotten. As Joe Gebbia said, Airbnb is about connecting with others and building a community.