Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky Outlines Plans for Company to Become a Travel Industry Giant

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky is taking big steps to change his home rental company’s image as a service for booking temporary lodgings of varying quality.

He wants Airbnb to guarantee to its growing number of users that their rentals meet hotel standards like clean beds and Wi-Fi so that customers avoid any surprises.

Too many people believe that “Airbnb is not for everyone,” Chesky said on Thursday in San Francisco at an Airbnb media event, where he outlined a number of new initiatives aimed at making Airbnb more attractive to business travelers and families.

One of the biggest changes is that Airbnb will better categorize rentals from the current options of shared rooms, private rooms, and entire homes. Now, people will get to choose from another four categories: vacation homes, unique spaces (or unconventional homes like domes, igloos, and tree-houses), bed and breakfasts, and boutique homes.

Eventually, Chesky said, Airbnb would “add thousands of new categories” that may include options like wineries and ranches.

The company is also debuting what it’s calling “collections,” in which some homes that have good reviews are grouped by why customers often rent them like family events or work travel. Whereas a family may want to rent a home that has a playground for children, for example, a business traveler may just want something clean and simple, and “collections” is intended to show people they kind of accommodation they would most likely prefer.

Additionally, Chesky unveiled a new Airbnb Plus tier for “beautiful homes from exceptional hosts” that he said would be come up higher in search results. Homeowners who list homes in the Airbnb Plus tier will get design and photography advice from Airbnb to make their homes look better to users as well as “premium customer support” that troubleshoots their problems more quickly.

This new Airbnb Plus feature is intended to weed out more hum-drum homes from the kinds of homes Airbnb would more like to stand out. Homes listed in this tier will have “standardized amenities” like Internet service and bathrooms with amenities like showers, clean toilets, and working sinks that make them more like hotel rooms.

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“We literally test the Wi-Fi in every single Airbnb Plus home,” Chesky said, implying that the company will do a thorough check of homes in the program, of which there are currently 2,000.

In order to be part of Airbnb Plus, homeowners must pay Airbnb a $149 application fee and then have their homes inspected by the company’s staff. Chesky did not say whether the company would reimburse the fee to people whose homes fail to make the cut.

Chesky also talked about Airbnb’s nearly $300 million acquisition of Luxury Rentals a year ago, and said that the company would soon debut luxury travel packages. These could include expensive stays in exotic locations like the Villa San Luigi in Tuscany or the Villa Avalon in Costa Rica, both of which are like the kinds of sumptuous mansions you see on TV. Besides offering guests stays in breathtaking mansions, Airbnb will also offer custom excursions in each location, like cooking lessons with local chefs, Chesky said.

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Stella Densmore