Airbnb treads waters in luxury rentals

PUBLISHED ON Jul 9, 2019

Airbnb Luxe is Airbnb’s latest business to tread waters in the luxury segment.

When Airbnb launched in 2008, the tech startup offered cash-strapped travelers cheap overnight stays on sofas and in spare bedrooms around the world.

What a difference 11 years makes. With the introduction of a new rental tier aptly called Airbnb Luxe, the company’s accommodation options, which had already expanded to include entire houses, expands to upscale ones on the high-end market.

“We have an overall strategy of having a product for every traveler, and Airbnb Luxe is for the ones seeking luxury,” said Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s chief executive and co-founder.

The Airbnb Luxe portfolio of 2,000 homes includes villas in Tuscany, ski lodges in New Zealand and castles in the French countryside. They were selected from the 5,000 properties listed on Luxury Retreats, a high-end vacation rental company that Airbnb acquired in 2017.

The customers for these homes, Chesky said, are the same guests who rented sofas with the company when they were younger, though now they have well-paying jobs,  more discerning tastes and seek upscale accommodations.

Airbnb has seen a 60 per cent increase in the past year in bookings that cost $1,000 (€880) or more a night,  Chesky said.

Several criteria were used to select the Luxe properties. The home’s design, location and views must reflect a sense of place. For example, a modern villa situated above Cape Town’s Clifton Beach has custom finishes made from locally sourced materials and houses an expansive collection of indigenous art.

Bookings for Luxe’s entry-level listings, typically two-bedroom condominiums in the Caribbean, start at around $600 a night during low season. The most expensive, a private atoll in French Polynesia called Nukutepipi, is about $1 million a week. The property includes 21 bedrooms, four pools and a staff of 50.

Chesky said that the average listing on Airbnb Luxe is $2,000 a night. On the main site, in comparison, travelers can find listings for under $20 a night that include an apartment in St Petersburg, Florida, for $10 a night.