For the last several years, every May and November, Airbnb has
announced a package of updates and new products related to its core
accommodation product, with a focus on offerings to fine-tune the platform for its
short-term rental hosts and guests.  

The 2024 May update, dubbed the “Summer Release,” is something

This time the spotlight is on experiences – but with a completely
different spin than the existing “Airbnb Experiences” product that the
company sidelined last April
. This time the experiences are curated by
Airbnb itself, not its hosts, and they are designed to tap into consumers’
desire to tie travel and experiences to pop culture.

In a highly-produced event Wednesday morning in Los Angeles, filled
with about 150 journalists and social media content creators from around
the world, as well as celebrities including Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis, Airbnb launched “Icons,”
described as “extraordinary experiences hosted by the greatest names in music,
film, television, art, sports and more.”

The product is launching with 11 experiences, with plans to unveil
new ones from around the world throughout 2024. Some, but not all, of the Icon
experiences also include an overnight stay.

“Icons take you inside worlds that only existed in your imagination
– until now,” said Brian Chesky, Airbnb co-founder and CEO. “As life becomes
increasingly digital, we’re focused on bringing more magic into the real world.
With Icons, we’ve created the most extraordinary experiences on Earth.”

Examples of the experiences include a tequila tasting and live stand-up
comedy show inside Kevin Hart’s members-only Coramino Live Lounge for 30 people; a tour and studio
session inside the home Prince purchased to film “Purple Rain”; and a “living
room performance” from singer Doja Cat for 15 people. Other experiences are built around
overnight stays in properties such as a recreation of the house in the Disney
and Pixar movie “Up” – which Airbnb built from the ground up and attached to a crane so it can “float” – the Ferrari Museum in Italy, the Musee D’Orsay in Paris and the home of Bollywood
star Janhvi Kapoor in India.

Beginning Wednesday and rolling out over the coming months, each offering
will go live on Airbnb, indicating that guests can request to book the
experience, with prices ranging from free to $97 per person. Some will be one-time offerings and others will have multiple available dates. Users can also opt-in
to be notified when a specific Icon is open for bookings.

The new offering aligns with Airbnb’s ambition to move beyond its
core business of short-term rental stays, something Chesky has talked
about regularly on the company’s quarterly earnings calls
in the past year.

“We’ve always believed that Airbnb was destined to offer more
than just a place to stay,” Chesky said in February.

It’s a strategy the company began to explore years ago – in 2018 Airbnb’s
managing director of EMEA spoke at Phocuswright Europe about the company
exploring flights and car rentals
– but that was put on hiatus due to the

But while these experiences are without doubt unique and innovative, are they more about generating buzz than a sustainable expansion of Airbnb’s core business?

“They are leaning into one of their perceived strengths – a very real one – which is that they have super unique stays in the short-term rental sector and a lot of travelers can see hotels as generic, especially in the upscale stays,” said Madeline List, senior research analyst for Phocuswright. “But this will never be mainstream. So my question is how are they going to elevate the average stay and deter hosts from setting up properties that don’t feel differentiated?”

Additional Airbnb updates

Along with the Icons launch, Airbnb announced new features to make
it easier for its users to plan a trip together – driven in part by the fact that more
than 80% of its bookings are for group trips. 

Now users can share “wish lists” to track properties,
including notes and votes on the listing. Airbnb has also updated its Messages
tool so guests can communicate with the host in a group thread.

Airbnb is also updating tools for hosts, including an expanded earnings dashboard with interactive performance charts and automated earnings

*This is a breaking story will be updated through the day as news warrants.

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