In 2008, two San Franciscan residents, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia let three strangers crash on air mattresses in their apartment. Like hitchhiking, letting strangers into such an intimate space, or being the stranger who accepts the offer, is risky business—a taboo if you will. But when Amol, Michael, and Kate made their beds in Brian and Joe’s home, Airbnb was born, and everything about short term lodging changed, and in its place grew a multi-billion dollar company.
Airbnb has become the go-to option for millennial travelers looking to avoid the overhead of hotels while getting a whole lot of real estate: a place to cook, your own pool perhaps, multiple bedrooms if you have family, or even a private room that’s next to nothing in comparison to even the cheapest motel. However, it has, indeed become a more glamorized option, with the most lavish Airbnb’s around the world showing up on travel lists, and news of Beyonce’s 10,000 dollar a night Super Bowl rental in San Francisco.
It makes sense then, that, between the growing popularity of Airbnb, and the desire to kick it up a notch to Four Seasons status and then some, that the company would gear itself toward a more luxurious crowd.
On February 22, at a keynote presentation at the Masonic in San Francisco, Airbnb announced the launch of two new luxury tiers: Airbnb Plus and Beyond Airbnb. The move comes a year following the company’s acquiring of Luxury Retreats, a company specializing in high-end home rentals.
The Plus will include homes that have been verified for quality and comfort as per a 100-point checklist. “Airbnb Plus [properties] are all the comforts of home, plus more. These are beautiful homes, from exceptional hosts, and every single one of them are verified for quality,” said Brian Chesky said. “The Beyond addition will provide ‘trips of a lifetime.’”
Brian explained that Luxury Retreats “has two decades of history delivering incredible hospitality and they have some of the world’s nicest homes. We asked—what if we brought together high-end hospitality with one of the largest travel communities in the world? How could we deliver the trip of a lifetime? If we are going to deliver the trip of the lifetime it would start with some of the finest homes in the world. We have thousands of these homes.” Now, Airbnb will pair these homes with custom-designed experiences.
The company calls the introduction of the two new services an effort to make “Airbnb for everyone.”
Airbnb plus isn’t necessarily more expensive than other listings, with the average price less than $250 a night. However, with the Plus program, the company guarantees a minimum level of quality that includes a well-stocked kitchen, high speed WiFi, luxurious bedding, and premium customer support. Hosts, who must pay a one-time fee of $149 to apply for the program, will also find extra advantages, with Plus homes ranking higher in search, and having a dedicated section in the app. Currently, Airbnb Plus is available in 12 cities, offering 2,000 homes.
“Part of what we wanted to do with this launch, is reframe why people come to this platform,” said Director or Engineering Surabhi Gupta. “There are a bunch of guests that are’t considering us today, they’ve written us off because they think ‘Airbnb doesn’t have a product for me.’
“We do believe that we have a product for a whole spectrum of travelers, but we haven’t made it easy for you as a guest to find those options.”
Other notable features include Airbnb’s “Supergest” program, comparable to a hotel membership program, as well as an upgraded navigation system on their site, with four new “categories” of listings: vacation homes, boutique, B&B, and “unique” (like tree houses and house boats). There’s also the option for users to browse the site for “collections,” that offer homes rated 4.8 and higher, and which are geared towards certain types of guests, be it business travelers or big families.
The company hopes the new moves will bring them to over 1 billion guests by 2028.