Airbnb has committed to letting its employees work from anywhere. Now the company is applying that ethos to its actual product, rolling out a massive redesign that encourages users to find hidden gems rather than search by cities. Airbnb cofounders Nate Blecharczyk and Brian Chesky said the changes, the company's biggest in a decade, will make it easier for guests, especially those working from home, to find and book stays for longer periods of time.
Airbnb will now look completely different. Users will be able to filter homes by 56 categories, including style, location or proximity to activities like skiing, camping and golfing. Filters will include boats, cabins, "amazing pools," lakes, tropical locales and vineyards, among others.
"We're reinventing travel in a way that is less transactional and more experiential," Blecharczyk, Airbnb's chief strategy officer, told Protocol.
Blecharczyk said guests began looking for longer stays and more and more unconventional homes like boats and barns as they shifted away from office work. Blecharczyk said the redesign is a reflection of that shift: People care more about the vibe of a place when they plan to work there for an extended period of time.
"Many employers are saying that they're going to adopt the very least a hybrid type of policy, which means that employees will continue to have the flexibility to work from home or work from any home for that matter," he said.
Airbnb Split Stays - CDMX and Copenhagen Image: Airbnb
Nights booked for unique homes like tiny houses, barns, domes and treehouses grew 80% in Q1 compared to 2019, the company said. Fewer people are looking for trips in popular cities, too: Stays booked in Airbnb’s top cities represented 8% of its revenue in the first quarter, down from 12% in the first quarter of 2019.
By changing Airbnb’s search, finding hidden gems is the default experience; not something users need to comb through listings to find.
"[People] are going to continue to have the flexibility not just to work from home, or from any home," he said. "If people knew they could have this great one week stay out in the countryside, and they saw the right option, they would go for it. It wouldn't matter whether they're arriving on a Friday or Tuesday. It would start with, ‘What is the experience?’”
Airbnb also has a new feature called Split Stays, which will let users divvy up their trips between multiple locations. For example, a user looking for campgrounds could use Split Stays to find places at campgrounds near one another.
“One of the challenges when you want a home for a longer stay, let's say, a one-month stay, is that that home actually has to be available that entire period,” Blecharczyk said. “Of course, these homes are popular, maybe someone else is staying there. The longer you want to stay, the fewer options you're going to see when you search.”
Airbnb AirCover - Rebooking and Welcome Message Image: Airbnb
He said Split Stays will give people who are looking to travel for longer periods of time more options. Airbnb expects people to see 40% more listings using the feature than without it.
Airbnb is also launching AirCover, a program for guests that provides booking protection if a host cancels a stay and a 24/7 safety line staffed by “specially trained agents.” AirCover for hosts already provides damage protection and liability insurance and is separate from the new version for guests.
The company's safety line has always been available, but Blecharczyk said it's expanding to cover 16 different languages as Airbnb expects an uptick in international travel this summer.
"There's a lot of pent-up demand for cross border travel," Blecharczyk said. "As people take bigger trips that involve more distance, more money, we want them to have peace of mind."