It's hard to believe but it's been a decade since Airbnb first peddled Obama O's and Captain McCain cereal in an early example of growth marketing. Yep, Airbnb has just turned ten! As part of a massive event, including a gaggle of 150 press flown in from around the world, the company announced its vision for the next ten years: 1 billion guest nights by 2028.
These are the initial impressions of the company's moves to usher in the next decade of existence.
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Replica boxes sit at its SF headquarters as reminders of the companys heritage.[/caption]
It's not an airline...
While there was plenty of fun conjecture on our part about an Airbnb airline
, this is not happening (at least not yet!). What is happening is a progression of Airbnb's moves to leverage more of its demand into actual supply for travel projects outside of booking places to stay. Last year, Airbnb announced its focus on Airbnb Trips
, an effort to bring it into the center of the traveler experience. This included the launch of Experiences
, which give hosts and local tour guides a new way to engage with travelers.
...it's 'Airbnb Plus,' the company's roadmap to 1 billion annual guests by 2028
Prior to taking stage from Airbnb's headquarters in San Francisco, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky spoke about a the"Airbnb Plus" model that will expand the way the company supports both hosts and guests:
"We want to go further by supporting and expanding our community so that in 10 years time, more than 1 billion people per year will experience the magical benefits of Airbnb."
Yep, that's billion. With a 'B.' Quite an audacious goal for a company that recently hit a mileston of 3 million guests staying in Airbnbs on New Year's Eve.
Here's a quick breakdown of what the company announced:
- Airbnb Plus. These are basically inspected listings, or listings that have "been personally verified for quality and comfort." Regulation has challenged Airbnb on the supply side. With its new Inspected Listings, the company is able to ensure consistency (for both safety and appeal) that hotels have long championed. Inspected Listings also make it much more feasible to accomplish the next point, which requires a high level of product design and delivery. Airbnb Plus homes are inspected and verified using a 100-point checklist that covers cleanliness, comfort, and design.
- Airbnb for Luxury. While the official name of the internal unit is 'Airbnb Beyond', the concept is the same: the company wants higher-end travelers to feel comfortable and supported using its services. The company wants to market its select higher-end homes "to a broad and deep network of affluent travelers." This makes sense, given the way that One Fine Stay was rapidly absorbed by Accor. And Airbnb is hiring aggressively, with nearly 50 positions open for its Luxury Retreats unit. The company claims that "Beyond by Airbnb will offer custom design trips of a lifetime, inclduing the world's finest homes, custom experiences, and world-class hospitality."
- Better, more comprehensive search. Traditional OTAs are being given a run for their money. With Airbnb able to take a smaller commission, there's a real potential for growth in listing hotels on Airbnb's platform. The company is going to continue expanding this access, by both reaching out to hotels and improving the search so travelers can find the right place to stay for a specific trip. This is a necessity if the company wants to serve travelers across different trip types -- for example, business and leisure. See below.
- Four new property types. Vacation Home, Unique, B&B, and Boutiques. This feeds into the better search part of the platform's experience. This is in addition to Shared Space, Private Room, and Entire Home, and will be launched to guests this summer.
- Airbnb Collections. This continues on from the better search and the new property types. These groups of homes are targeted to different trip types, making it more likely that the company can match trip to traveler. Per a press release: "To meet the needs of such a diverse range of travelers" these are "perfect homes for every occasion." Launching today are Airbnb for Family, Airbnb for Work, and later this year are collections for social stays, weddings, honeymoons, groups, and dinner parties.
- Airbnb Beyond. Custom designed trips in luxury villas and curated experiences. This was the most unclear of the announcements, as it's not quite fully fleshed out. Launching this spring. Here's a video about Airbnb Beyond.
- SuperGuest. A membership tier for guests to get a better experience through specific perks. This will be rolled out over the next year to around 10,000 guests. Think of this as Airbnb's first foray into a loyalty program of sorts.
Even amidst some skepticism around this approach
, co-founder Nate Blecharczyk repeated its ambitions to be more things to more travelers in an appearance on Bloomberg TV
. The company's plan became more fully realized with its recent announcement that boutique hotels will now be distributed on its platform
-- bringing it one step closer to an online travel agency.
Since Airbnb has such a large number of visitors, that sort of demand could indeed prove lucrative to boutique hotels as certain travelers are likely to be comparing staying in an Airbnb to a boutique hotel or cozy bed-and-breakfast. Both offer a more localized vibe than a standard-issue chain hotel, which fits with Airbnb's brand positioning.
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Airbnb began all the way back in 2007[/caption]
The company has also made strides in its Airbnb for Work program, a unit within the company geared towards ensuring the best experience for business travelers through 'Business Ready' listings. The efforts have started to pay off, with growth in the number of business travelers reporting the use of Airbnb.
Given the ongoing regulatory challenges facing short-term rentals, these moves make sense. If the company were to rely solely on revenue from rentals, it puts its growth mostly in the hands of an unpredictable regulatory environment. By expanding into a 'whole trip' platform, Airbnb is more about serving travelers that are 'Airbnb people.' It fosters a stronger brand loyalty and gives the company multiple touchpoints -- and monetization options -- throughout a traveler's journey.
The full keynote is below.
The writer's travel and expenses were paid by Airbnb. Please read more about our ethics policy here.