Airbnb launches Plus, higher-end options that have been personally inspected

Airbnb is hoping to become a major player in the upscale hospitality industry with its new

It's not necessarily more expensive than other listings - CEO Brian Chesky said the average price is less than $250 a night - but with Airbnb Plus, the company guarantees a minimum level of quality, like a well-stocked kitchen, fast Wi-Fi, and comfortable bedding.

The company revealed in San Francisco on Thursday that following its acquisition of Luxury Retreats a year ago, it is now preparing to launch Beyond by Airbnb.

To address this, Airbnb will add 4 new property types to its platform - Vacation Home, Unique Space, B&B and Boutique. So, why the change now?

Additionally, the company is expanding its Superhost program with new and updated benefits, including more exposure, custom URLs for their listings and exclusive pricing on smart home devices, starting with a partnership with Nest to offer Superhosts discounted products.

Airbnb is dispatching inspectors to rate thousands of the properties listed on its home-rental service in an effort to reassure travellers they're booking nice places to stay. Rather than just booking a hotel at a luxury resort you find on TripAdvisor, Airbnb is trying to build the credibility that it can offer unique experiences you won't find in those hotel environments - whether that's a tiny apartment in the middle of Shinjuku, Japan, to a attractive condo in the middle of Ponta Delgada in the Azores. In addition to its existing Shared Space, Private Room and Entire Home categories, guests can now search by Vacation Home, Unique Space, Bed & Breakfast, and Boutique, giving hosts a total of seven categories for listings.

Chesky said the company would be adding as many as 1000 new categories.

"Every one of these homes is specially merchandised to really make the home features stand out", Chesky said.

While Airbnb was initially designed mainly for solo travel, the ways that guests have used the platform has evolved over the years.

Airbnb launches Plus, higher-end options that have been personally inspected
Airbnb launches Plus, higher-end options that have been personally inspected

Launching with 2,000 listings in 13 cities, Airbnb Plus homes have been inspected and verified in person against a 100+ point checklist that covers things like cleanliness, design and comfort. To that end, Airbnb is launching its Collections feature today.

Collections for social stays, weddings, honeymoons, group getaways and dinner parties are also planned for later this year.

Airbnb Plus hosts can stand to benefit from top placement, in-home services like design consultation and professional photography, and premium support.

Airbnb also announced a new "Superguest" program: the company's answer to hotel membership programs.

"Airbnb's latest scheme is just further proof the company is trying to play in the hoteling space while evading industry regulations", said Troy Flanagan of the American Hotel & Lodging Association.

That means Airbnb has needed to re-think its business.

Airbnb, which has an estimated value of $31bn, has become a pin-up in the peer-to-peer sharing economy - allowing users to book rooms in hosts' properties at a value they determine.

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