Skift Take

It’s got to be hard to get that “local feel” when you’re staying at one of the biggest tourist destinations in New York City.

Two months after acquiring HotelTonight, Airbnb is pushing further into the hotel space — this time with New York’s Rockefeller Plaza.

The homesharing app launched a partnership on Monday with New York realty giant RXR Realty to turn part of an iconic Manhattan building into a hotel. Offered exclusively through Airbnb’s global platform, the initiative targets business travelers seeking more extended stays and authentic New York experiences.

“We’ve seen a lot of people taking ‘work-cations.’ They’re coming to the city for work and then extending the trip for personal travel. And we’ve seen a lot of long-term stays and people who are looking for more experiential travel,” said Liz DeBold Fusco, a spokesperson for Airbnb.

Located at 75 Rockefeller Plaza, the 32-story property will open to guests in 2020 and will be Airbnb’s first time using an iconic building for hotel rentals. Built by the Rockefellers in the 1940s, the plaza building overlooks the famous Rockefeller ice skating rink. It’s one block from Radio City Music Hall and four blocks from the Museum of Modern Art, two of the city’s most famous attractions.

The building is zoned for commercial use, meaning there are no legal barriers to operating a hotel on the property. This is markedly different from many of Airbnb’s prior experiences in New York City, where the service and its operators have run into repeated legal trouble over its homeshare listings in mainly residential areas.

In July, New York City sued the the homeshare service to force it to reveal host information, which prompted Airbnb to sue back a month later.

And just this January, the city sued Airbnb operators for $21 million for allegedly using the service to rent out hundreds of apartments in Kipps Bay, Manhattan. Under state law, it is illegal to rent apartments out for less than 30 days, unless the permanent tenant is there.

The hotel will occupy 10 floors and consist of over 200 high-end apartment-style suites, each with a fully stocked kitchen, according to Airbnb. The company is seeking to give travelers a balance between a traditional Airbnb homeshare and an upscale hotel, along with the feel of living like a local.

Many of Airbnb’s original customers have been getting older, now entering their 30s, Airbnb told CNBC this morning, and they place more value on hotel amenities.

“Our classical millennial young traveler base is now the older, more affluent traveler base,” Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky told CNBC. “They want to have more reassurances in where they stay, they want to have concierges, they want to have the rooms clean.”

“We consider this to be a new category of urban lodging. We are really trying to create all the comforts of home and the authentic, local feel of an Airbnb listing, but with more of a luxury setting,” said DeBold Fusco.

To this end, Airbnb plans to offer a digitally enabled concierge service, which connects guests with local “hosts” who can give them tips on what to do and see in the city. More details about the concierge service will be released in the coming month, DeBold Fusco added.

The property will also include cultural programming, which will be based on Airbnb’s growing Experience platform, which it expanded to New York City in 2017, as well as a private social club and business center located on the top floor. Again, the company said it would be sharing more information in the coming month.

In addition, the property will also have meeting and events spaces, collaborative working spaces, and a common area, along with access to a new restaurant and a lobby-adjacent bar.

“RXR is a best-in-class real estate developer, specifically in using technology in development,” DeBold Fusco said. The real estate company owns dozens of famous buildings throughout New York City, Long Island, and New Jersey, including the Helmsley Building in midtown and the Starrett-Lehigh Building in Chelsea.

The two companies will be working together closely as the project develops, collaborating on room and building design, as well as cultural programming and technology, including the concierge system. RXR will be responsible for the execution and the operation of the locations.

Brooklyn Location

Airbnb is considering opening a second location at 47 Hall Street in Brooklyn, another RXR building, located in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Airbnb’s vision for this property seems a bit more casual — there’s no private social club, for example — and aimed at travelers in more creative professions:

“[The property] will create an exciting new community of makers, creatives, tech­ visionaries, artists, architects, foodies, and change agents in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn,” the company said.

Like the Rockefeller property, guests staying in The Hall will have access to indoor and outdoor cultural programming, as well as bars, restaurants, and communal spaces.

Airbnb said it was exploring other properties in RXR’s portfolio but has no definite plans yet beyond the Rockefeller Center launch.

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Tags: airbnb, new york city

Photo credit: 75 Rockefeller Plaza in midtown Manhattan. RXR Realty

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