Up until a few years ago, the phrase ‘getting an Airbnb’ meant one thing: staying in the apartment, house, or spare room of a stranger, likely at a bargain price compared with nearby hotels.
But in 2019, things aren’t so simple. Eleven years after the company’s founding in 2008 – and amid endless speculation about when it will launch its IPO – the meanings of that phrase have multiplied.
Sure, that original offering still stands. But “getting an Airbnb” (or “Airbnbing,” which is now a verb) could also mean staying in a “Plus” tier listing, defined as “a selection of homes verified for quality and design.” Or your listing might be offered by a vetted Superhost, who may or may not have Instant Book enabled, a feature that eliminates the clunky but sometimes charming step of messaging your potential host before making a booking.
You might Airbnb a fully-serviced, multi-room vacation rental or villa, where your “host” will likely be a person employed by a vacation rental management company. You could be staying in an old-school guest house or actual bed & breakfast, because Airbnb invited those to join the platform, too. And perhaps most surprisingly, you may well find yourself in the type of accommodation Airbnb originally positioned itself as the quirky, authentic alternative to: a hotel room.
If you can book all these things and more on Airbnb, it’s worth asking: What even is Airbnb these days?
In the gauzy parlance of corporate tech, it is an “end-to-end” travel platform that “combines where you stay, what you do, and how you get there, all in one place.” But in becoming that, it has moved further and further away from the thing it was when its founders started it—literally, with air mattresses.
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