Airbnb wants to take tourists to places they never knew existed

Airbnb is revamping its website in a bid to lure tourists to places where it has more accommodations, as it seeks to ensure pent-up demand during this year’s peak season isn’t dampened by supply issues.

Where searches on Airbnb were primarily restricted by location and then by date, the redesign announced Wednesday will introduce 56 different categories. The tabs will filter around 4 minutes of ads by functions – such as ‘surfing’, ‘skiing’ and ‘camping’ – as well as features such as ‘houseboats’, ‘farms’ and ‘castles’.

In addition to hosts entering information, computer vision technology is used to automatically populate listings with certain features visible in images, such as “grand piano”.

The company said the upgrade represented the “biggest change to Airbnb in a decade.”

“For 25 years, the way you search for travel online has been the same,” Chief Executive Brian Chesky told reporters in New York this week. “There is a large field of research and [it asks] you a question: ‘where are you going?’

“We could show you places you never thought to search.”

Since its IPO in December 2020, the supply of available and desirable locations has been named as the biggest potential obstacle to Airbnb’s hopes of a huge increase in tourism thanks to pent-up demand as the coronavirus pandemic coronavirus is receding.

According to company filings, active listings on the platform have increased by approximately 7% since the company’s pre-IPO S-1 filing. According to independent rental data analyst AirDNA, only nine of the top 20 cities for Airbnb in Europe have more listings available than in 2019.

The offer in non-urban areas has been strengthened, benefiting first from the desire for social distancing, then from the evolution of mentalities vis-à-vis remote working. In the first quarter of this year, enrollment in non-urban areas was up 15% year-over-year globally and 21% in North America.

The new features will also direct people to lesser-known cities, Chesky said: “We’re in 10,000 cities and most people can’t think of that many cities.

“And I think there are a lot of reasons why travel is so concentrated. I think it’s because people go to Netflix and see Emily in Paris. . . everyone goes to Paris, and most people don’t know how to name tiny towns in France.

Chesky said the redesign would build on its “I’m flexible” feature, introduced in May 2021, where customers could see a wider range of options if they didn’t have firm dates in mind. Airbnb said more than 2 billion searches have been made using this feature.

The upgrade will add location customization, such as specifying a desire to stay in a US national park, with no preference for which. It also plays its offerings in unusual places like the Arctic Circle, where it has 6,500 locations listed.

Much of the company’s revenue growth during the pandemic period has been due to people looking to book longer stays to work remotely. Long-term stays of 28 days or more accounted for 21% of all gross bookings on Airbnb in the first quarter, compared to 13% in the same period of 2019.

Airbnb’s new search feature enables split stays and the application of new filters

The redesign adds other options to that, including “Split Stay,” where Airbnb’s algorithm will suggest two locations that could be booked in tandem if neither host can accommodate the full duration of a stay.

“It doubles the number of opportunities you have for a search when you stay longer than a week,” Chesky said.

Airbnb shares have fallen 33% year-to-date amid a broader sell-off in tech stocks. However, the company recently told investors it was on course to post an exceptional peak season, with 30% more nights booked for this summer – as counted at the end of April – compared to the same period in 2019.

It expects revenue to grow more than 50% in the current quarter, year-over-year, although it continues to see depressed bookings in Asia Pacific.

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