By Billie Cohen, CNTraveler.com
Airbnb CEO and cofounder Brian Chesky was in our office this morning talking about his company's plans for the future. While he mentioned many interesting things -- the arrival of "instabooking" with no back-and-forth required between guests and hosts, an improved double-blind review system that encourages more honesty, the possibility of a future loyalty program -- the most fascinating was his list of the unexpected ways people use Airbnb.
1. Neighborhood sampling
When you're moving to a new city, it can be difficult to decide which neighborhood is right for you. Enter the Airbnb option: spend a month in, say, L.A., trying out a different area each week. "Thousands and thousands" of people use the service this way, Chesky said.
2. Visiting family
It used to be that if you were visiting family, you would stay with that family. No one booked a hotel just to visit their brother or aunt -- even if they wanted to. But now, Chesky said, he sees people booking a house in the same neighborhood (or even the same apartment building) as their family members. He mentioned one host in New York's Tribeca neighborhood who told him that most of her guests were family members of other residents in her building.
3. New grandparents
New parents often invite their own parents to help out during the first few weeks or months after the infant comes screaming into the world. Put the in-laws in an Airbnb, and everyone gets a little more privacy.
4. Extended stays
Last-minute and spontaneous bookings are a big part of Airbnb's business, but Chesky says extended stays are growing too. "Ten percent of our business is longterm stays, and it's growing," he told us. "I could easily see that being 15 to 20%." Chesky thinks his company has a real leg up on the competition in this particular market. "Airbnb is even better that the competition on stays of 30 days," he said. "Try staying at a friend's house for 30 days and see how they feel. Try staying at a hotel for 30 days and see how you feel."
5. Quirky locations
Yes, the perfectly situated apartment in Rome is key to your Italian vacation. But the usual city digs aren't the only thing people are looking for when booking through Airbnb. They want unusual places to say, like boats, treehouses, handmade homes, and yurts. "We are probably the largest marketplace for boats," Chesky said. And the most popular listings are treehouses. "Investing in treehouses is better than investing in any stock," he joked, "except Airbnb of course." To find these sorts of quirky lodgings, he recommends the Airbnb app's "Discovery" section, which features private islands, windmills, haunted houses, and even buses you can sleep in.
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