In 2007, Americans Brian Cheska and Joe Gebbia rented out some air beds on the floor of their apartment to attendees of a conference in San Francisco. They were struggling to pay the bills and needed to find another avenue of income. They called it ‘Air Bed and Breakfast’. Fast forward ten years and the accommodation booking site claiming to ‘help home owners earn extra income’ is changing the face of online travel booking as we know it. The still privately held company (as at April 2017) is owned by the savvy pair and third co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk, and lists 3 million homes across 200 countries. It has a net worth of $31 billion; that’s more than Hilton and Wyndham combined and not far behind Marriott. Not bad for a business started on an airbed!
For travellers, Airbnb provides a unique insight to genuine life in a destination. Their ethos of experiencing the ‘real’ place you’re visiting is one that rings true for millions of people and is an exciting way of glimpsing even the rawest parts of a culture. But for some people who prefer the finer things in life, Airbnb is a bit risky. They are wary of staying in someone else’s home. Perhaps it’s the unknown, no regulation on standards of cleanliness or luxury. Either way, Airbnb has identified this challenge for travellers who like the finer things in life, and they’re piloting a new premium service.
Airbnb Select is the trial name for a new part of the site that is home only to properties that have been carefully vetted by the team. They are rolling it out first with hosts who have received outstanding feedback for service, cleanliness and the high standard of decoration in their homes. These super hosts will receive a request to join the scheme and, in return, will not only get their property listed on the Airbnb Select section of the site, but receive a consultation from an interior designer and a professional photo shoot of their property. Lucky travellers who get to stay in the select accommodations will benefit from luxury furniture, fresh luxury towels, spas, swimming pools, hot tubs and in some cases concierge service and other amenities.
The pilot scheme comes shortly after Airbnb’s acquisition of Luxury Retreats, a travel company that has vast experience of handpicking and inspecting villas and rentals that are truly luxurious and providing 24/7 concierge service to guests. The move towards the higher end of the travel market marks a need to appeal to more mature travellers with bigger holiday budgets and more particular tastes.
The new Select scheme doesn’t seem to be live just yet on the site, but watch out for the introduction of it in the not-too-distant future. Having recently added ‘Experiences’ booking to the website too, Airbnb is on the road to becoming the number one destination for travel bookings, even for the most discerning traveller.
If you book Airbnb and your flights separately you will not be covered by ATOL protection, make sure you purchase you travel insurance separately, get a quote now.