Airbnb unveils ‘biggest change…in a decade’ with castle and treehouse categories

In what CEO Brian Chesky calls “Airbnb’s biggest change in a decade,” the home rental company on Wednesday introduced a site-wide redesign that makes it easier to find offbeat and niche properties.

Why is this important: As travel agencies prepare for the summer rush — which will be intensified this year by pent-up post-COVID demand — Airbnb is trying to differentiate itself and offer new options to consumers.

Driving the news: Airbnb’s upgrades released Wednesday are designed to inspire people to expand their travel horizons beyond choosing a destination city and travel dates:

  • A new set of 56 accommodation “categories” – from castles and cottages to domes, treehouses and lakeside properties – lets people browse and shop places they didn’t know they could visit.
  • A new “split stay” feature will suggest splitting your time between two nearby Airbnb properties if you plan to be away for a week or more.
  • New “AirCover” protections offer more generous guarantees, protecting you if a host cancels, a property doesn’t match the listing, or you feel unsafe.

Between the lines: Chesky says he wants to prevent “overtourism,” or too many people all trying to visit the same places (like Paris, London, and Disney World).

  • The “categories” approach, which allows people to check out properties by activity (golf, skiing) or by type of location (seaside, vineyard, Arctic) or by physical characteristics (A-frames, chef’s kitchens, cabins in the trees), is intended to guide people off the beaten track.
  • “We want to redistribute travel,” Chesky said at a Tuesday press conference outlining the changes.

Details: Each “category” tells you approximately how many properties are listed there, regardless of where they are geographically or when they are available.

  • The “amazing pools” category has over a million listings, for example, while “caves” has 600, “mansions” has 1,000, and “national parks” has 600,000.
  • “We don’t just have castles, we have lots of them,” Chesky said, noting that the 3,000 properties in the “castles” category are available at all price points.
  • His favorite categories are “design,” which has 20,000 properties deemed architecturally interesting, and “OMG!” which has 500 strange and eclectic dwellings.

And after: “We will continue to add many categories,” Chesky said. “This is just the beginning.”

Editor’s note: This story was originally published on May 11.

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