Variety

Airbnb expands product range to reach out to new users globally

Priyanka Pani San Francisco | Updated on February 23, 2018 Published on February 23, 2018

Airbnb CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky pictured at Airbnb headquarters in San Francisco, California, on Thursday.   -  REUTERS

Airbnb, a global accommodation platform, is planning a major overhaul in its business strategy to target new users globally, by moving beyond its core home business that is focussed on offering people affordable travel and stay options. The San Francisco-based company, which started out as a platform allowing people to share their spare rooms with stranger guests, has launched newer categories -- vacation homes, Unique, B&B and Boutiques, besides launching luxury products Airbnb Plus and Beyond by Airbnb. The company will soon launch special stay options for people travelling on work, for honeymooners and for group travellers.

In its new avatar, the company intends to target family and luxury travellers, and also transform into an entity that is more like an accommodation aggregator, competing head-on with travel aggregators such as Expedia.com and Booking.com. However, unlike other hospitality service providers, Airbnb generates revenues for its hosts, who keep about 97 per cent of the money they charge for their listings.

The company is now looking to reward its guests with its loyalty programme called “superguest” that would have benefits such as discounts, airport pick-ups, and flight upgrades, amongst others. The company is at present piloting the programme with about 10,000 guests, and it would be rolled out globally in the next few months.

With new products in place, Airbnb is targeting about one billion annual guests by 2028, with the aim of providing them better accommodation options, greater transparency and availability. While the company did not reveal the statistics on its annual guests, the company claims to have had about 3 million guests in a single night on December 31, 2017.

Brian Chesky, Co-founder and Head of Community of Airbnb, told the press here on the occasion of the company completing a decade in the business, "Ten years ago we never dreamed of what Airbnb could become. In fact, people thought the idea that strangers would stay in each other's homes was crazy. Today, millions of people do just that every night. But we want to go further by supporting and expanding our community, so that in 10 years, more than one billion people annually can experience the magic of Airbnb."

Talking more about Airbnb’s global programmes, Chesky said the company is moving beyond its core business and looking to provide greater experiences to its users, both the hosts and guests. The accommodations would range from camper vans, igloos and boats, to tree-houses and luxury villas, Chesky said, adding that its newest product, Airbnb Plus, will help users search and book some of the best listed properties globally.

“Airbnb Plus homes have been inspected and verified in person, against an over 100-point checklist covering cleanliness, comfort and design,” Chesky said. He added that the global travel industry is booming, with more and more millennials from the emerging markets travelling for work and leisure. Growth for Airbnb would come from markets such as China, India, Latin America and Africa in the coming 10 years. However, these new categories would take some time to reach the Indian market.

Airbnb’s diversification also comes at a time when the company is still fighting regulatory challenges in many countries for jacking up short-term rentals, leading to housing shortages, besides facing strong opposition from the hospitality industry across countries. The entry into newer categories would also help the company, with a $30-billion valuation, earn more margins from boutique hotels, villas and other experience-led stays, as the company prepares for its public listing in 2019, which is when its new products are also likely to turn profitable, according to Chris Lehane, Head of Public Policy at Airbnb. The company has added 4.5 million listings in 81,000 cities globally in the last 10 years.

Published on February 23, 2018
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