Airbnb Plus didn't work out, and its official demise is the punctuation mark. Airbnb guests have many other ways to search for a stay, and the company's edge in exclusive listings has nothing to do with Plus.
Airbnb is finally ending its Airbnb Plus program after several years of it being an inconsistent priority, Skift has learned. The official end date is November 6.
When it launched in 2018, the company saw Airbnb Plus as a way to obtain and promote exclusive listings that met some 100 design standards. The goal was to conduct annual inspections and hosts had to list exclusively with Airbnb to qualify.
Airbnb confirmed the program’s demise. “In an effort to perfect our core service, Airbnb has decided to discontinue the Airbnb Plus program,” the company said. “Though guests will no longer see the Plus banner in their search, they will still be able to find and appreciate the unique design and positive reviews of these listings and their hosts. We’re also developing new tools for hosts to help them showcase their properties and make their listings easily discoverable to potential guests, and we look forward to sharing more in our 2023 Winter Release.” The Winter Release is an upcoming series of product announcements.
Airbnb Plus started with 75,000 listings and the goal of increasing that 10-fold within a few years. But the program sputtered and never met expectations. Today there is no filter for travelers to search for Airbnb Plus-designated listings. Instead there is a “top tier” filter, which highlights superhosts and Airbnb Luxe properties, touted as “handpicked luxury homes with personally arranged services.”
Airbnb hasn’t onboarded new Airbnb Plus listings in some time, and the company gutted the Plus team during the pandemic.
Observers questioned the utility of Airbnb Plus for both hosts and guests.
Tim Choate, CEO of vacation rental channel manager RedAwning, said Airbnb Plus “never made sense for hosts. The reality is that Airbnb, though very powerful in most destinations, only represents a small fraction of guest demand.”
He said that’s why his company partners with any channel that has scale. “Being exclusive to a single channel, even a large one, causes hosts to earn less money from their properties,” Choate said.
A top executive, who declined to be identified, at a property management company, said: “The Plus properties were great, but so are a lot of other properties, so it never made sense to consumers, in my opinion. Consumers wanted to always see them all, not just Plus.”
Still, Airbnb had a major edge in exclusive listings in 2022, according to Transparent via Skift Research, although the advantage was not necessarily Plus-related. In 2022, 57% of Airbnb listings could be found only on Airbnb. “Vrbo has only exclusivity for 6% of all listings, and this is even less at 3% for Booking.com, with both companies capturing just above 25% of the total available listings,” Skift Research said.
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Photo credit: An Airbnb Plus listing in 2018. Source: Airbnb