Airbnb Inc. is rolling out new features, including verified internet speeds at hosts’ homes and options to search for listings up to a year in advance, as the vacation-rental company bets that remote work and flexible travel is here to stay.
The more than 50 new features, announced a day after U.S. borders reopened to foreign tourists, are part of Chief Executive Officer Brian Chesky’s vision of a new golden age of travel that was born in the Covid-era, where work and leisure blend together as companies move away from an office-centric lifestyle.
Long-term stays of 28 days or more are the company’s fastest growing category of trip length and accounted for 20% of nights booked between July and September, Airbnb said in its third-quarter earnings report last week.“I think the practical challenge is finding a place that is available for a month,” said Chief Strategy Officer Nathan Blecharczyk in an interview. “If you plan ahead, there’s zero problem doing that,” Long-term stays also result in less turnover for hosts, too, he said.
Airbnb reported record sales and earnings in the third quarter, proving its resilience in the face of the surging delta variant and the persistent demand for vacation rentals from which to work and play. Airbnb cited policies from the likes of Procter & Gamble Co., Ford Motor Co., and Amazon.com Inc. that have announced increased flexibility for employees and it expects more to follow their lead. That’s one reason Airbnb is helping hosts test their listing’s Wi-Fi and have the speed verified on their site. “With this upgrade, you can be confident that you won’t miss a Zoom or a favorite streaming show from your Airbnb,” the company said.
The new tools announced Tuesday follow on the San Francisco-based company’s “I’m Flexible” campaign in May, which gave guests the option to search for listings up to six months ahead. The feature has been used more than 500 million times, the company said, and the latest update will allow travelers to search for new listings that are “off the grid” and offbeat. During the pandemic, travelers migrated away from large urban centers, instead choosing nearby and rural vacation destinations.
But extended stays are also popular in cities during the holidays, and alternative lodging provides a different experience than staying a month in a hotel. Airbnb has seen a 68% increase in long-term stays during the holidays compared with 2019 bookings, Blecharczyk said.
“If cities want to capture and be a part of these new trends, I think Airbnb is a unique piece of infrastructure that is going to allow for that,” he said.
Airbnb’s 4 million hosts are getting upgrades too, including AirCover, a protection program that comes with $1 million in damage protection and $1 million in liability coverage, as well as income-loss and deep-cleaning protection.
In an effort to recruit even more hosts to meet surging demand, Airbnb will match its most experienced “superhosts” to those who have questions about opening their homes to guests. Airbnb is expanding its Ask a Superhost program to more than 30 languages in almost 200 countries.
“When you’re new to this you have a lot of questions and what’s more reassuring than reading about it on our website is having a conversation with someone who is actually doing it,” Blecharczyk said.
Photo: AirBnb signage on a smartphone. Photographer: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg
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