New options from Airbnb include luxury digs, perks for 'Super Hosts'

Image Credit Garett Mizunaka

The loyalty program is something Airbnb needs to offer to compete with online travel agencies such as and Expedia, and that program and the new segments should give it a better edge against hotel rivals which are already divided into different levels of luxury, says Henry Harteveldt, founder of the travel industry research company Atmosphere Research Group. There'll be the guarantee of an in-person greeting or a lockbox or keypad for entry, and travelers will get access to a special team of Airbnb Plus customer service and the promise of swifter responses.

During the past decade, the Airbnb platform has grown to have 4.5 million properties listed.

The company on Thursday introduced two new tiers - Plus and Beyond - as well as four new property types - Vacation Home, Unique Space, B&B, and Boutique - all of which promise to make it easier to find the type of travel accommodations you're after.

When Airbnb was founded in 2008, it offered a platform for people to rent out their rooms, apartments or homes to strangers as a way to earn extra cash.Those spaces were divided into just three types - shared spaces such as a couch, private rooms or entire home. It will be live with more than 2,000 listings across 13 cities, including Austin, Barcelona, Cape Town, Chicago, Los Angeles, London, Melbourne, Milan, Rome, San Francisco, Shanghai, Sydney, and Toronto.

Airbnb today unveiled a Roadmap for its core Homes business.

"We are creating the world's largest home database", said Chesky.

He said it recognises hosts who go above and beyond to provide outstanding hospitality.

In a bid for the luxury crowd, another new offering is Beyond by Airbnb, which will offer custom-designed trips in what the service touts as "the world's finest homes". To that end, Airbnb is launching its Collections feature today. Frequent business travelers often have accumulated massive piles of reward points (and maybe have bigger travel budgets) and may be accustomed to this, and there's also plenty of opportunity to target the same kinds of experiences that something like an Atlantis full-service resort in the Bahamas might offer (with water slides and all). Available through Airbnb for Family and Airbnb for Work, these accommodations will allow users to search for "social stays, weddings, honeymoons, and group getaways", according to the company's release, with an option for dinner parties coming later this year.

Additionally, the company is expanding its Superhost program with new and updated benefits, including more exposure, custom URLs for their listings and exclusive pricing on smart home devices, starting with a partnership with Nest to offer Superhosts discounted products.

Anticipation has been growing over when Airbnb will go public, but CEO Brian Chesky told USA TODAYthat it would not launch an initial public offering in 2018.

Airbnb said its Plus offerings would be inspected for comfort, cleanliness, and design, and was said to be "intended for guests looking for lovely homes, exceptional hosts and added peace of mind". Superguest will launch initially to 10,000 guests as a trial this summer before being rolled out to Airbnb's wider guest community before the end of the year.

Airbnb Plus is just one of several new features announced today.



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