Airbnb Dives Into Pop Culture With New Home and Experiences Category Called ‘Icons’

Skift Take

Airbnb’s new celebrity-driven Icons category of experiences will trigger housefuls of free publicity.

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky has frequently mentioned the creative ways the brand has tried to stay top of mind beyond traditional advertising. This included its Barbie House, which attracted the 250 million social media impressions last year.

On Wednesday, Airbnb went further with the launch of an attention-grabbing category of experiences and stays called Icons. Through the Airbnb app, consumers will be able to vie to hang out with Kevin Hart and his entourage in his “secret speakeasy,” or spend a night in Prince’s Purple Rain House in Minneapolis.

There are 11 Icons at launch. Two of them are stays inside Disney and Pixar’s Up house and the “Headquarters” of their flick Inside Out 2.

There are overnights at the Ferrari Museum; Musée d’Orsay to get a view of the 2024 Paris Olympics’ opening ceremonies from the terrace; Bollywood star Janhvi Kapoor’s digs where she’ll share her favorite southern India culinary delights; an overnight gaming experience in Milan with TikTok celeb Khaby Lame; and a “stay in a 2D animated re-creation of Marvel Animation’s X-Mansion in Westchester, New York.”

There is also the chance to take in a living room performance by Grammy award winner Doja Cat and going on a week-long tour with Reggaeton star Reid.

Most of the Icons will be available for free and the rest will go for less than $100 per guest, said Airbnb.

Airbnb plans to make 4,000 tickets to these Icons available in 2024. Selected guests need to verify their identity and may have to undergo background checks due to security concerns, said Jay Carney, who heads Airbnb’s global policy, communications and crisis management teams.

07 Game with Khaby Icons Airbnb Credit Federico Ciamei

Khaby Lame. Source: Airbnb

What’s the Business Model?

With tickets to these stays and experiences being freebies or low cost, how will Airbnb make money?

Airbnb’s Chesky told Skift that Icons really isn’t a business, but a “cool thing we are doing.”

“The most important [thing] is this is the gateway to experiences … It’s a stepping stone to where we’re taking Airbnb. And so next year, we’re gonna have something really big coming out. All that stuff is going to be built on the back of this.”

Airbnb’s experiences business has been in limbo for a year. The company still offers these tours and activities, but it isn’t accepting new applications.

Airbnb characterizes these 11 Icons as “experiences” even though the majority also involve a stay.

In a separate interview, Carney said Icons is a way to show people that Airbnb is “expanding beyond our core,” adding “this is a way of indicating to people that Airbnb is about more than just a place to stay.”

Icons may also turn out to be an effective way to reach customers who may not have considered Airbnb before.

“This is the best way to reach specific audiences,” Chesky said. “If you want to reach Ferrari fans, or X-Men fans. We have a huge Bollywood actress. It’s a great way to reach people in India. So this is a good way to target.”

Carney wouldn’t elaborate on any financial relationship between Airbnb and personalities or venues involved in Icons, but added: “These big movies or celebrities see a lot of value in partnering with us in creating something authentic and unique as opposed to just a television ad or an interview on a talk show. They work with us to design something that’s truly representative of either who that person is or what that world is about.”

New Tools for Group Travel

Airbnb also added features for people traveling in groups, including the ability to share wishlists of homes, the ability for the group to vote on which listing to stay at, and to share notes. Once the group shares places to stay with one another, Airbnb creates a wish list for these properties, Airbnb said.

Another new feature enables all the guests on a trip to message the host in a common thread through a redesigned Messages tab. This makes it easier to do searches within messages, Airbnb said, adding that AI suggests quick ways to reply.

Hosts to Get More Data Tools

Airbnb said it enhanced the hosts earnings dashboard with performance charts and earnings reports. Additions to the dashboard include data on occupancy rates and the number of nights booked, for example.

The Icons and group travel features were being rolled out globally Wednesday. The new host earnings dashboard features would likewise be available when hosts enroll in the app in Airbnb Early Access.

Note: Skift Editor in Chief Sarah Kopit interviewed Airbnb’s Brian Chesky in Los Angeles Tuesday.

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