Never Normal Newsletter

The Accommodation is the Destination

Last week I wrote about Airbnb’s new nomad policy and the accommodation affordability crisis affecting digital nomads.

As expected, this past week Airbnb unveiled their Summer 2022 Release, which they describe as “the biggest change to Airbnb in a decade”.

In short, there are three main changes:

  • new search and browse options based on “Airbnb Categories”
  • the ability to book “split stays” (one trip split across two homes) and
  • an improved support program for guests (AirCover)

Watching CEO Brian Chesky’s announcement video, it’s clear that the company sees the new Categories feature as the most groundbreaking of the three.

Instead of simply searching for “a place to stay”, Airbnb now emphasizes (and allows users to browse and search) all of the different categories of homes available on the platform — from houseboats to vineyards to urban lofts.

With this new feature and announcement, Airbnb isn’t simply allowing customers to search for different types of homes, they’re actually making two bold statements about travel and their business:

1) The Accommodation is the Destination

It’s already common to see influencers on Instagram and TikTok share tours of their enviable Airbnb digs. This new feature makes it easier for everyone to find and book those “wow” homes.

The other important message in the announcement ties back to what I wrote last week…

If you pay close attention to the video and the screenshot on the announcement page, you’ll also notice that the homes featured have prices ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars per night.

2) Airbnb is a premium accommodation provider.

If you’re going to spend that kind of money, why would you stay in a generic hotel room, when you can rent an entire castle or a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright instead?

This might seem obvious, but it is a significant departure from the company’s earlier positioning.

Remember, Airbnb started as “AirBed and Breakfast”. This TechCrunch article from 2008 is a great reminder of just how stark the original offerings on Airbnb were:

Anyone with an airbed (or couch) can “post a room” and how much it costs. Thrifty travelers can make reservations on the site and pay for the stay.

Typically, each person offering a room puts up a picture of themselves and the apartment or house, along with some very basic information.

The article includes an excerpt of a typical listing from that time:

Accommodates: Single Person
Bed type: Airbed
Room type: Common space
Breakfast: I’ll leave something out
Smoking: No

In these past 15 years, Airbnb has gone from being a quirky, commercialized version of couch surfing, to the company leading the entire travel industry into the next phase.

That’s all for this week. More soon!

PS – The featured photo at the top is of The Kellogg Doolittle House in Joshua Tree, California (available on Airbnb for $16,000 per night).

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I write occasional emails to share what I’m thinking, learning, and doing. It’s all related to the idea of breaking free from the “default plan” in life.

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