Airbnb’s Newest ‘Innovation’ Is Kind Of Just Traditional Vacationing


Remember the days when people thought you were slightly insane for renting out someone’s home across the world on Airbnb? Well, we’re so far down that rabbit hole that we’ve actually come full circle. Airbnb is now moving away from the quirky premise of renting a stranger’s apartment and offering rooms in boutique hotels, bed-and-breakfasts and luxury resorts.

But Airbnb’s newest “innovation” is kind of just traditional vacationing. You find a hotel online, book it and go, knowing exactly what you’ll get before you even show up.

The company is chasing the kind of travelers who hate the idea of staying in someone else’s home. Instead of sorting through a charming (and occasionally alarming) hodgepodge of personal homes, Airbnb will offer categories to search. You can specifically find hotels or bed-and-breakfasts with the new updates.

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Instead of battling hotels for guests, Airbnb is teaming up with them. The company infamous for “disrupting” the vacation accommodation market will now look a lot like Priceline or Expedia.

To satisfy luxury traveler’s standards, Airbnb is premiering a new category of homes that are pre-vetted for cleanliness by an Airbnb inspector: Airbnb Plus. These spots will (of course) cost more, giving the company a nice little profit boost as well.

Peruse the Airbnb Plus section in any of the 13 currently available cities and you’ll start to notice a pattern. Although super chic, the rooms all look like a different page of the same catalog. It’s that Airspace look — all exposed brick, Edison bulbs and succulents.  Everything looks exactly the same no matter where you are in the world. But that’s exactly what drove travelers away from hotels and toward Airbnb at its inception.

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Now, you’ll still be able to find houses or single rooms in homes on Airbnb, as well as some of the cooler offerings like treehouses, houseboats or barns. But it’s unclear how long that will last — or if it’s even ethical that it should. In cities around the world, it’s getting a lot more difficult to create short-term rentals and Airbnb is feeling the pressure.

Unlike the startup’s scrappy beginnings, a lot of the apartments currently on Airbnb are operated by big companies, not individual locals wanting to share their spare room with travelers. Housing advocates are pushing back against transient travelers filling neighborhoods in highly wish-listed cities. When apartments are kept empty for Airbnbers, locals are pushed out. Rent gets higher. The “authentic” experience that drew people to rent someone’s home instead of staying in a luxury hotel therefore becomes harder to find.

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San Francisco, the rental company’s innovation home base, cracked down on rentals shorter than 90 days. According to Reuters, the number of short-term rentals in the city decreased by half since August 2017. New rules in Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris and New York City have limited the number of apartments and homes on Airbnb as well.

Airbnb’s answer is to bring in hotels alongside apartments. You’ll be able to curate your searches by type: B&B, Boutique, Entire Home, Private Room, Shared Room, Unique Space and Vacation Home. You can also search by purpose through Airbnb Collections such as Airbnb for Family and Airbnb for Work. The company will launch lists of properties made for social stays, weddings, honeymoons, group getaways and dinner parties later in 2018.

These changes are great for luxury travelers and might help relieve gentrification woes. But the days of finding a true slice of life in a city that’s not your own might be over for Airbnb.