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Homesharing giant Airbnb knows that if it wants to remain dominant in its space, especially amid growing competition from rivals such as Booking.com and Expedia’s HomeAway, it needs to grow its number of listings beyond the more than five million it has today.
That’s why, in the past year, the company has expanded its outreach beyond the occasional host, or the person simply looking to “make ends meet,” to professional hosts, from boutique hotels and vacation rental managers and management companies and even to landlords of apartment buildings.
But reaching out to these suppliers is one thing; offering them both the tools and the access to make it easier and more profitable to list on the Airbnb platform is another.
On Friday, the company announced the debut of a new set of content and resource tools for professional hosts and a new Preferred Software Partner program.
The new content and resource tools are housed on a new landing page and make it easier for hosts to access existing tools that help them better manage their listings, set prices and availability, and market their listings.
However, at first glance, the tools being presented don’t appear to be necessarily new or different from tools Airbnb has announced previously.
An Airbnb spokesperson told Skift, “In terms of new product functionality, we’ll have more to share on that in a few weeks.”
Airbnb’s new Preferred Software Partner program helps hosts connect to various third-party software providers that specialize in tools that help hosts with their listings, whether it’s managing bookings, setting prices, etc. These software partners, who include companies such as LiveRez, Orbirental, RedAwning, and SiteMinder, among others, also benefit from additional marketing, product development, and technical support, as well as financial incentives.
The timing of this announcement is likely tied to the upcoming Vacation Rental Management Association (VRMA) conference taking place in Las Vegas this weekend from October 27 to 30 where thousands of professional vacation rental managers are expected to gather.
It also comes a day after rival Expedia announced the acquisition of two former service provider partners of Airbnb’s: Pillow and ApartmentJet, two companies that help landlords transform their apartment buildings into short-term rentals.
In August, Airbnb noted the upcoming dissolution of its partnership with Pillow, with a source close to the company saying, “The existing partnership with Pillow, for example, is scheduled to end this fall. Airbnb may decide to end that partnership or scale it back significantly because the new tools will make the kind of partnership that is in place today unnecessary.”
It’s clear that, in addition to working with companies that already provide software and services to professional hosts, from hotels to vacation rentals, Airbnb is also working on developing its own proprietary set of tools for its hosts, including landlords, and possibly extending to hotels and vacation rental managers.
On the Rocky Road to Airbnb for Everyone
Friday’s announcement also aligns with the company’s “Airbnb for Everyone” roadmap, which was announced by Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky back in February. Essentially, that roadmap represents a maturation of Airbnb’s overall product mix to offer something for everyone, including verified Airbnb Plus homes, hotels, and professional vacation rental properties, including ultra-luxury homes and all-encompassing travel experiences.
But since that February announcement, there seems to be very little movement in terms of the new initiatives that Chesky laid out.
For one thing, the highly anticipated Airbnb Superguest loyalty program has gone back to the drawing board. Airbnb President of Homes, Greg Greeley, confirmed that news last month at the Skift Global Forum. Originally, the program was slated to begin piloting this summer.
There’s also been no movement on the introduction of Beyond by Airbnb, the new ultra-luxury product from Airbnb that would combine its Airbnb Experiences tour product with its 2017 acquisition of Luxury Retreats.
And as far as tools for hosts go, one tool in particular — the ability for Airbnb hosts to create custom URLs for their listings — also has yet to launch.
There’s also no indication whether Airbnb is close to achieving its year-end goal of having a total of 75,000 Airbnb Plus listings, and the company could not confirm a more updated number for its Airbnb Plus inventory, which last stood at 2,000 as of February 2018.
It’s clear that if Airbnb really wants to compete with more listings and more inventory, it’ll need to do much more to fulfill its original roadmap plans, and to debut actual tools that will assist its hosts.