Travel booking company Airbnb is rolling out a new design for its website and app to encourage the discovery of different places and facilitate longer stays.
The firm says this is its biggest redesign in years. The marquee feature is called Categories, and it lets you explore homes around the world — rather than search for something specific.
With this, Airbnb aims to inspire people to think about traveling in the future, or taking longer trips.
Encouraging discovery through categories
Speaking to TNW, Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky said travel search has been the same for the last 25 years.
We thought there was a more inspiring way to build a search for travel that’s not just based on location. One problem with searching by location is that we have homes in 100,000 cities. Nobody can think of 100,000 places to go.
So instead of typing in dates and destinations to look for stays, the company wants you to just start browsing.
At its launch, Airbnb is debuting 56 categories that include things like amazing pools, castles, and historical homes (style-based categories); arctic, beach, and lake (location-based categories); camping, golfing, and surfing (activity-based categories).
You can browse through these categories directly from the landing page on the Airbnb website and the app. You’ll see refined categories if you select a destination and time frame of your visit.
Starting today, Netflix is launching the categories hub feature within the TV menu to members globally. This serves as a one stop shop to discover and access genre based categories like Animated, Action, and Early Learning, as well as local moment collections like Earth Day! pic.twitter.com/fQVbJ33OmO
— Netflix Family (@netflixfamily) April 21, 2022
The firm says it has already categorized four million out of six million homes listed on the platform. Chesky said that the team has used a combination of machine learning and human review to label these homes.
He added that while the company is starting with 56 categories, the interface is designed to handle hundreds of them, and they’ll continue to evolve it to handle more ‘genres.’
Facilitating longer term stays
Airbnb said the remote work trend that’s caught on since the pandemic has increased the number of bookings that are for a longer duration. The firm pointed out that in the first quarter of the year, nearly half of 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’re planning a trip to a place for 10 days, and there are less than 300 results for it, the service will show you pairs of homes close to each other with available dates.
Prior to this, if a home that you liked was available for only a short duration, wouldn’t show up in search because of unavailability. But now, if it’s partially available, you can book it along with another home nearby for the rest of your stay.
You’ll also get similar suggestions when searching for a single category, so you can experience two different places in one trip.
Chesky said that Split Stays is not an easy thing to execute, from a technical perspective. The platform needs to serve up the best matches without any delay.
Currently, it only shows results in pairs. When I asked why can’t the platform show me more homes for a trip, Chesky said the company was exploring that.
The technology we’ve made to pair two homes can pair three or four homes. It can also pair up homes and experiences. It’s essentially a gateway towards AI generated itinerary. But we just wanted to start simple.
If I’m traveling for more than a month while working remotely, I might want to experience different places, so a filter to select the number of homes I would like to stay during the trip could be nice.
What’s coming next?
Chesky noted that Airbnb has 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, could wishlists be like playlists? Could you share your wishlist? Could those wishlists be like a Spotify playlist that could be shared? The answer is of course that these are things we’re thinking about.
Prior to the pandemic, the company was thinking about building services like ticket booking and travel content, but it paused to focus on providing home booking services.
Chesky also said in the coming years, Airbnb wants to change rapidly to be different than its competitors:
Right now most of this product is still about homes. And most our categories I am really interested in really doubling down on experiences next year.
I do think a lot of people are lonely, and they want to meet people and do things.
He thinks in a few years, the company won’t be just a booking platform, but a travel inspiration and discovery platform.
The new features are rolling out to users in the US today, and they’ll be available worldwide this week.