Airbnb wants to take travelers to places they never knew

Airbnb is revamping its website to lure tourists to places with more places to stay, as it tries to ensure pent-up demand during this year’s peak season isn’t hampered by supply issues.

Searches on Airbnb are mostly narrowed down by location and date, and the redesign announced Wednesday will introduce 56 different categories. The tags will filter about 4 million listings by features such as “surfing,” “skiing,” and “camping,” as well as features such as “houseboat,” “farm,” and “castle.”

In addition to host input, computer vision techniques are used to automatically populate lists with certain features visible in the image, such as “grand piano.”

The company said the upgrade represented “the biggest change to Airbnb in a decade.”

“For 25 years, the way you searched for travel online has been the same,” CEO Brian Chesky told reporters in New York this week. “There’s a big search box, [it asks] You have a question: ‘Where are you going?

“We can show you places you never thought to search.”

Since it went public in December 2020, the supply of available and desirable locations has been cited as the biggest potential hurdle for Airbnb’s hopes of a big growth in tourism due to pent-up demand as the coronavirus pandemic subsides.

According to company filings, the number of active listings on the platform has increased by about 7% since the company filed its S-1 application before listing. According to AirDNA, an independent rental data analyst, only nine of Europe’s top 20 Airbnb cities currently have more listings available than in 2019.

Supply was stronger in non-urban areas, initially benefiting from the desire to maintain social distancing and then changing attitudes towards remote work. In the first quarter of this year, listings in non-urban areas around the world rose 15% year-over-year, with North America up 21%.

The new features will also direct people to lesser-known cities, Chesky said: “We’re in 10,000 cities, and most people can’t think of that many.”

“And I think there are many reasons why travel is so concentrated. I think it’s because people watch on Netflix Emily in Paris. . . everyone goes to Paris, most people can’t name small towns in France. “

Chesky said the redesign will build on the “I’m Flexible” feature that launched in May 2021, where customers can see a wider range of options if they don’t have a firm date. Airbnb says more than 2 billion searches have been made using the feature.

The upgrade will add location customization, such as specifying a desire to stay in a U.S. national park, without any preference. It’s also touting its offerings in unusual places like the Arctic Circle, where it lists 6,500 locations.

Much of the company’s revenue growth during the pandemic has come from people seeking longer hours of remote work. Long-term stays lasting 28 days or more accounted for 21% of total Airbnb bookings in the first quarter, compared with 13% in the same period in 2019.

Check out Airbnb’s new search feature © Airbnb

The redesign adds more options to this, including “split accommodation,” where Airbnb’s algorithm will suggest two locations that can be booked at the same time if no one host can accommodate a full stay.

“When you stay longer than a week, that doubles your likelihood of doing a search,” Chesky said.

Shares of Airbnb have fallen 33% since the start of the year amid a broader sell-off in tech stocks. However, the company recently told investors that it’s heading for a peak season, with a 30% increase in nights booked this summer (as of the end of April) compared to the same period in 2019.

It expects revenue to rise more than 50% year over year for the quarter, even as bookings in Asia Pacific continue to decline.

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