Airbnb is prioritizing the vital expansion of its accommodation categories and the experience of hosts, both existing and new.
A fresh batch of features, announced today as part of the company’s winter release, include additional building types, namely Hanoks — traditional Korean homes constructed of natural materials — and new categories including “trending”, “top of the world” (homes around 10,000 feet above sea level), and “play” (houses with basketball courts, game rooms, miniature golf, and water slides). These extra categories will allow hosts and their homes to be discovered more easily, while also allowing guests to “find hidden gems”, as Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk puts it.
“From a business perspective, it’s helping us to better utilize our inventory. It’s a way to help make sure that all the homes are getting a fair share of bookings,” he tells Mashable. “And from a community perspective, this can be a driver of the economy, Spreading tourism over a broader, geographic footprint and allowing more communities to benefit from from tourism.”
The most significant of these updates is “adapted”, a new category for homes with wheelchair access and verified step-free paths into the home, bedroom, and bathroom. Accuracy on these listings is important, and Airbnb worked with spatial data company Matterport for the scanning process of these homes. “It’s always been very important to us to be inclusive,” says Blecharczyk.
Amongst the company’s other updates is expanded AirCover for hosts and the introduction of Airbnb Setup, a new way to get people started transforming their homes into accommodation on the platform. This is especially important, Blecharczyk tells Mashable, “in this time of economic uncertainty”.
“We know that hosting is really important economically to a lot of people on the platform. We also know there’s a lot of other people out there who probably could benefit from the extra income,” he said in a Zoom interview, saying that the company recognizes the “great deal of trust” it takes to place a home on Airbnb.
The setup feature will streamline this process, incorporating guidance from Superhosts, Airbnb’s top-rated and most-experienced hosts. First time users can chat with a designated Superhost over audio, video, or messaging. This is intended to ease any anxiety and cater to any uncertainty. There are already 1,500 Superhosts in over 80 countries signed up to the program already. Blecharczyk says they are eager to share their knowledge, noting that, “Hospitality is inherently about sharing information and welcoming people.”
New hosts can also select to house experienced guests for the first stay, which would mean a guest with at least three stays and a good track record. The company has also expanded its top-to-bottom damage protection for hosts, primarily tripling it from $1 million to $3 million, while also expanding protection to include cars and boats.
“[AirCover] is something that every host qualifies for and I think it’s really an example of how we continue to kind of lead the industry,” Blecharczyk says. “We want to continue to innovate in terms of how we can build confidence in, people hosting.”
The new updates to AirBnb — Setup, AirCover, and its expanded categories — will begin rolling out worldwide next week.
When asked about Airbnb’s growth in relation to the current economy, Blecharczyk recalls how the company grew and adapted during the pandemic, something that Airbnb’s CEO Brian Chesky spoke to Mashable about last year. Blecharczyk echoed Chesky’s sentiments, saying this time is “actually an opportunity for Airbnb to really show our unique value propositions,” citing their range of price points and additional offerings as examples.
“Whatever happens in the future from an economic standpoint, people still are going to want to travel,” he says.