In August 2008, two roommates welcomed three strangers to sleep on air mattresses in their San Francisco apartment in a bid to afford their rent. Neither of them knew that their move would go on to start a global phenomenon in travel — and the beginning of a multi-billion dollar company.
Fast forward to 2018, the two men in question, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, are one of the youngest and richest tech founders in America — and the startup, Airbnb, has become one of the world’s largest accommodation platforms with over 4.5 million places to stay in 81,000 cities.
“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 every night do just that,” said Chesky, the company’s co-founder, CEO and Head of Community, “But we want to go further by supporting and expanding our community so that in 10 years time, more than 1 billion people per year will experience the benefits of magical travel on Airbnb.”
Indeed, the company has progressed from where it first started and has definitely shed its “couch surfer image” — seeing various advancements over the years, from the launch of experiences to the introduction of a home complex in Florida. Its latest move is the launch of two new luxury tiers, Airbnb Plus and Beyond by Airbnb — confirming the rumour that the company has been working on luxury properties for guests who prefer modern amenities.
The first category, Airbnb Plus, offers a selection of “high-quality, well-equipped homes with hosts known for great reviews and attention to detail,” said the company. Additionally, the hosts of the properties must have a rating of 4.8 out of 5, or higher.
“Every Airbnb Plus home is one-of-a-kind, thoughtfully designed, and equipped with a standard set of amenities — whether you’re in a private room or have the entire place to yourself,” states the company’s website for Airbnb Plus. “All Airbnb Plus homes are visited in person to ensure comfort, consistency, and design. They are checked for 100-plus things that guests told us they love, from must-have amenities to the art on the walls.”
Airbnb Plus will offer more than 2,000 listings across 13 cities, including Austin, Barcelona, Cape Town, Chicago, London, Melbourne, Milan, Rome, San Francisco, Shanghai, Sydney, Toronto and Los Angeles (which has the most number of Airbnb Plus listings).
And while Airbnb has been associated with the millennial traveller since its inception, it has also attracted some of the world’s elite, such as Beyoncé — who famously rented a S$13,000-a-night Super Bowl rental in San Francisco — as well as Rihanna, who stayed in the Paul Mitchell Estate in Hawaii.
The second category, Beyond by Airbnb, aims to cater to these sophisticated travellers by featuring exotic luxury homes and offering a holistic experience for vacationers. The new ultra-high-end service follows the acquisition of the Montreal-based startup Luxury Retreats in 2017 for a reported S$263 million.
“It has two decades of history delivering incredible hospitality and they have some of the world’s nicest homes. We asked—what if we brought together high-end hospitality with one of the largest travel communities in the world? How could we deliver the trip of a lifetime? If we are going to deliver the trip of the lifetime it would start with some of the finest homes in the world. We have thousands of these homes,” Chesky said.
Beyond by Airbnb will offer custom designed trips of a lifetime, including the world’s finest homes, custom experiences (such as cooking classes with local chefs, truffle hunting and outdoor activities), as well as world-class hospitality.
With the launch of the two new tiers, the company is looking to attract a more high-end clientele, while keeping its existing one. “We’re still affordable, but we want to offer another tier of homes to travellers who want a more upscale experience,” Chesky said.