Travel booking company Airbnb is rolling out a new design for its website and app to encourage discovery of different places and facilitate longer stays.
The company says this is its biggest redesign in years. Called Categories, the marquee feature allows you to explore homes around the world — rather than search for something specific.
With this Airbnb wants to inspire people to think about traveling in the future, or taking longer trips.
Encouraging discovery through categories
Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO of Airbnb, told TNW that the search for travel has been the same for the past 25 years.
We thought there was a more inspiring way to build a travel quest that isn’t just based on location. One problem with location search is that we have homes in 100,000 cities. No one can think of 100,000 places to go.
So instead of typing in dates and destinations to search for lodgings, the company wants you to just start browsing.
At launch, Airbnb will introduce 56 categories, including things like awesome pools, castles, and historic homes (style-based categories); arctic, beach and more (categories based on location); camping, golf and surfing (categories based on activities).
You can browse these categories directly from the landing page on the Airbnb website and app. You’ll see refined categories when you select a destination and timeframe of your visit.
Starting today, Netflix is launching the category hub feature in the TV menu for members around the world. This serves as a one-stop shop for discovering and accessing genre-based categories such as Animated, Action, and Early Learning, as well as local moment collections such as Earth Day! pic.twitter.com/fQVbJ33OmO
— Netflix family (@netflixfamily) April 21, 2022
The company says it has already categorized four million of the six million homes on the platform. Chesky said the team used a combination of machine learning and human assessment to label these homes.
He added that although the company is starting with 56 categories, the interface is designed to handle hundreds of them, and they will continue to develop it to handle more “genres.”
Facilitating a longer stay
Airbnb said the trend of remote working that has caught on since the pandemic has increased the number of longer-term bookings. The company pointed out that in the first quarter of the year, nearly half of its bookings were for more than a week.
That’s why Airbnb is introducing split stays for trips longer than a week. Here’s how it works: If you plan a trip to a certain place for 10 days, and there are fewer than 300 results for it, the service will show you few houses close to each other with available dates.
Previously, if a property you liked was only available for a short period of time, it would not show up in the search results due to unavailability. But now, if it’s partially available, you can book it along with another house nearby for the rest of your stay.
You’ll also get similar suggestions when you search for a single category, so you can experience two different places in one trip.
Chesky said that Split Stays are not technically easy to perform† The platform must offer the best matches without delay.
Currently it only shows results in pairs. When I asked why the platform can’t show me more homes for a trip, Chesky said the company was investigating.
The technology we created to link two houses can link three or four houses. It can also link homes and experiences. It is essentially a gateway to AI-generated travel itineraries. But we just wanted to start simple.
If I travel for more than a month while working remotely I may want to experience different places, so a filter to select the number of houses I would like to stay in during the trip could be nice.
What comes next?
Chesky noted that Airbnb had a wishlist feature that people used as a bookmarking tool, but that could change with the redesign:
Right now, wishlists are primarily a bookmarking tool. But the question is, can wish lists be like playlists? Could you share your wish list? Could those wish lists be like a Spotify playlist to be shared? The answer, of course, is that these are things we think about.
Prior to the pandemic, the company thought about building services such as ticket booking and travel content, but it stopped to focus on providing home booking services.
Chesky also said Airbnb wants to change quickly in the coming years to be different from its competitors:
At the moment, most of this product is still about houses. And in most of our categories, I’m really interested in really doubling down on experiences next year.
I think a lot of people are lonely and want to meet people and do things.
He thinks that in a few years the company will not just be a booking platform, but a travel inspiration and discovery platform.
The new features are rolling out today to users in the US and will be available worldwide this week.