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Airbnb unveils "biggest change...in a decade" with castle, treehouse categories

In what CEO Brian Chesky calls "the biggest change to Airbnb in a decade," the home rental company introduced a sitewide makeover Wednesday that makes it easier to find offbeat and niche properties.

Why it matters: As travel companies gear up for the summer rush — which will be intensified this year by pent-up post-COVID demand — Airbnb is trying to differentiate itself and give consumers fresh options.

Driving the news: The upgrades Airbnb released Wednesday are designed to get people to expand their travel horizons beyond choosing a destination city and travel dates:

  • A new set of 56 "categories" of lodging — from castles and tiny homes to domes, treehouses and lakefront properties — allows people to browse and fantasy shop for places they didn't know they could visit.
  • A new "split stay" feature will suggest you divide your time between two nearby Airbnb properties if you're planning to be away for a week or more.
  • New "AirCover" protections offer more generous guarantees, safeguarding you if a host cancels, a property isn't as advertised, or you feel unsafe.

Between the lines: Chesky says he wants to prevent "overtourism," or too many people all trying to visit the same places (like Paris, London and Disney World).

  • The "categories" approach, which lets people check out properties by activity (golfing, skiing) or type of location (beachfront, vineyard, the Arctic) or physical features (A-frames, chef's kitchens, treehouses), is meant to guide people off the beaten path.
  • "We want to redistribute travel," Chesky said at a news conference Tuesday describing the changes.

Details: Each "category" tells you approximately how many properties are listed in it, no matter where they are geographically or when they're available.

  • The "amazing pools" category has more than a million listings, for instance, while "caves" has 600, "mansions" has 1,000 and "national parks" has 600,000.
  • "We don't just have castles — we have a lot of them," said Chesky, noting that the 3,000 properties in the "castles" category are available at all different price points.
  • His favorite categories are "design," which has 20,000 properties that have been deemed architecturally interesting, and "OMG!" which has 500 weird and eclectic dwellings.

What's next: "We're going to keep adding a lot of categories," Chesky said. "This is just the beginning."

Editor's note: This story was originally published on May 11.

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