‚We’re not shipping a new steering wheel. We’re shipping a new car, so to speak. It’s a top-to-bottom upgrade.‘
Airbnb just redesigned its website to change the way users search for listings on the platform. Category search allows users to explore travel without having a specific destination in mind. Rather, they can look for A-frames or countryside homes or places near great golfing experiences.
The company also introduced split stays (where users can book two different listings for a long-term stay in a single user flow) and launched AirCover for guests, which guarantees they’ll be covered if a host cancels, the place isn’t up to snuff, or they can’t check in to their Airbnb.
All of this is meant to inspire people to get out of their houses and get traveling again. We sat down with founder and CEO Brian Chesky to discuss the release, where Airbnb is headed and how he’s planning for the future.
TechCrunch’s interview with Chesky follows. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
TechCrunch: How would you describe the ultimate goal of this release? What are you ultimately trying to do with these features?
Brian Chesky: The goal of this release is to inspire possibilities for people when they travel and live around the world. The basic idea is that last year, the world became more flexible. People weren’t tethered to an office, but they weren’t comfortable getting on planes. So we really tried to focus on people traveling nearby a little longer. Now, we’re basically saying, “Hey, you don’t need to go to the same 100 cities and you don’t need to be limited to the same search box.”
The goal is to show you a world of possibilities you never thought to type into a search box. That’s basically the idea. Because we think people are ready to dream again. A lot of people have been sequestered at home for two years. Many people haven’t taken that big trip for the first time since the pandemic. We want to encourage people to get out of their house and go venture this big world.
Travel is one of the most aspirational things in the world. You travel when you graduate, you travel when you get married, you travel when you retire. It’s kind of sold like the online casino on a lot of websites. We want to bring the magic back to this category and show people a whole world of possibilities they’d never thought to search for.
“We think this is going to be the travel rebound of the century. Tons of people are gonna be traveling, and we’re stepping on the gas. We’re not pulling back.” Brian Chesky
So that’s really what Categories is. With Split Stays, the goal is to give you more options if you’re looking for a stay longer than the week. And AirCover is really about understanding that a lot of people haven’t done a big trip in two years. So it’s kind of like if you used to ski, but haven’t skied in five years, you may be a little tepid the first time you got on the mountain again. It’s kind of the same thing with travel. Maybe you’re going across the border or going to another country for the first time in a long time. AirCover will make you feel a little more comfortable. But it all comes back to this idea that there’s this new world of travel, and so we’re creating a new Airbnb to give you more possibilities.
The last time that we talked, the focus of the company was on individual hosts. For the end user, this latest update can certainly inspire and get people imagining their next trip, but there also seems to be a big benefit for individual hosts. They should have a lot more visibility with the new search. But professional hosting has become this very glitzy, Pinterest-esque career path. There are even HGTV shows about fixing up a space to turn it into a rental. How do you think about the tension between professional and individual hosts moving forward?
If a regular person wants to upgrade their home or they have one or two homes, I would still kind of put them in an individual host bucket. I think that if somebody has like 50 or 100 homes, they have people wearing company T-shirts with a logo and they’ve got 25-year-olds checking you in, which often happens, then that’s a little more professional. This product definitely benefits individuals a lot. I think it also benefits people that aren’t in the top 100 cities.
At the same time, it’s not meant to only benefit individuals or only benefit people outside of cities. We have very urban categories. What we’re trying to do is move beyond just being a commodity. Think about how travel is usually shown.