Airbnb’s “Icons” launch prompts blended response from business voices

With loads of fanfare, Airbnb launched its new “Icons” initiative Wednesday, a spin on experiences curated by the short-term rental platform outlined as “extraordinary experiences hosted by the best names in music, movie, tv, artwork, sports activities and extra.”

“Icons take you inside worlds that solely existed in your creativeness – till now,” mentioned Brian Chesky, Airbnb co-founder and CEO, on the occasion. “As life turns into more and more digital, we’re targeted on bringing extra magic into the actual world. With Icons, we’ve created essentially the most extraordinary experiences on Earth.”

With a reveal that befell at a highly-produced occasion populated by journalists, influencers and celebrities, it’s not stunning that the corporate’s launch made headlines.

However the chatter didn’t cease there. The launch generated loads of responses from voices throughout the journey business – some in favor of the corporate’s new limited-access, unconventional experiences that tie into popular culture whereas others are feeling underwhelmed.

“They’re leaning into certainly one of their perceived strengths – a really actual one – which is that they’ve tremendous distinctive stays within the short-term rental sector and a whole lot of vacationers can see accommodations as generic, particularly within the upscale stays,” mentioned Madeline Record, senior analysis analyst for Phocuswright. “However this may by no means be mainstream. So my query is how are they going to raise the typical keep and deter hosts from organising properties that do not really feel differentiated?”

Some name it an “AMAZING” innovation

Many have been impressed by the STR large’s newest enterprise.

“The Icons program is exclusive and playful; these outlandish stays will generate a lot consideration and seamlessly play into the experiences sector Airbnb has been pushing,” mentioned Brandreth Canaley, COO at Roami. “It is some of the ingenious advertising and marketing methods we have seen from Airbnb, or some other hospitality supplier.”

And loads of business heads commented on Airbnb’s transfer on LinkedIn.

Amongst them was Luca De Giglio, founding father of Trips Community and host of podcast Web3 in Journey. De Giglio, a self-proclaimed Airbnb critic, was blown away by the launch.

“That is AMAZING INNOVATION,” De Giglio wrote. “It is so out of the field considering, that it could create a brand new business vertical. I am positive numerous persons are already eager about what homes to construct, to recreate film units, or conditions, and perhaps even increase cash to take action.”

Jamie Lane, senior vp of analytics and chief economist at AirDNA, was impressed by the launch – and noticed it as strategic and purposeful.

“Some product releases assist *friends* discover attention-grabbing listings (classes) or filter to the proper itemizing (new facilities). Different product releases assist *hosts* checklist properties extra simply, handle their costs extra effectively, or spotlight particular options,” Lane wrote on LinkedIn. “This newest launch was about constructing their *model.* These kinds of bulletins assist create new incremental demand for your complete business. Extra folks obtain the app for the primary time. Extra folks begin searching listings … and extra potential friends. These kinds of releases assist develop the general pie by bringing short-term leases mainstream. Excited to see what’s subsequent.”

Is Airbnb’s “Icons” a publicity stunt?

Following an occasion that drew a whole lot of eyes in individual and undoubtedly many 1000’s extra on-line, some have been left questioning if the “Icons” launch was merely for publicity functions.

Hospitality and on-line journey tech advisor and strategist Max Starkov brought the question to LinkedIn – sharing his personal take: “Icons” is a stunt that received’t add a lot to Airbnb’s backside line.


As soon as once more, Airbnb goes in circles and working out of significant concepts that may carry actual development.

Max Starkov, hospitality and on-line journey tech advisor and strategist

Starkov pointed to the constraints on the experiential stays. “How many individuals can keep on the Ferrari Museum? A handful.”

Starkov continued: “As soon as once more, Airbnb goes in circles and working out of significant concepts that may carry actual development,” he wrote, pointing to a loyalty program for instance of one thing which may be worthwhile for the corporate to think about.

And Mitch Bach, co-founder and CEO of TripSchool, called Airbnb “the last word tease” when it comes to its legitimacy as a supplier of experiences.

“At solely 4,000 ‘invites’ to Icons, this launch is only a glorified press launch and one other tease of a future for non-lodging Airbnb merchandise,” Bach wrote. “We within the excursions & actions house stay in an everlasting holding sample of hoping one thing’s really subsequent and nice with Airbnb Experiences.”

Christian Watts, founder and CEO of Magpie Travel, was additionally unimpressed. He in contrast Airbnb’s transfer to the now defunct Zozi, which he mentioned “began with merchandise like this round 15 years in the past, raised $50m, made a couple of pivots, and fizzled out.”

“Airbnb shall be nice, nevertheless it’s new ‘Icons’ product simply appears like a little bit of buzz,” Watts continued. “It is a disgrace, as a result of pre-COVID, Chesky was speaking about Experiences being the following huge factor. This newest incarnation will not be very Airbnb-like. No host
involvement. No group. Not very ‘live-like-a-local.’ Possibly it would evolve? They
have in all probability the very best platform to do one thing modern right here.”

Leaders within the house mentioned the matter additional within the feedback part of Watts’ put up.

Justin Steele, founder and CEO of Local Sauce Tours, referred to as Airbnb’s announcement a “actual kick within the tooth” for Airbnb Expertise hosts and Group Leaders.

“We have been offering Airbnb with a lot suggestions on what they should do, however nothing appears to truly transfer senior management to make the mandatory adjustments,” Steele wrote. “One thing is coming to Airbnb Experiences, however by the point it does, they may have misplaced all of the goodwill with present hosts so it appears it will likely be all for naught. Vastly disappointing as their platform CX is so significantly better for each hosts and friends than any of the others.”

And Jack Harris, founding father of Tally Ho! Experiences who has hosted on Airbnb Experiences since 2017, weighed in too. He in contrast the “Icons” initiative to its featured “Up” as a result of it’s “a whole lot of sizzling air.”

“My take: with out an open API, Experiences will not really take off as there’s an excessive amount of operational drag,” Harris wrote. “Regardless of Airbnb’s popularity for innovation, their Experiences ‘Insights’ dashboard has been malfunctioning (displaying no gross sales/income information) for practically 10 months, leaving us with out correct stories. We maintain it promoting as a result of the income continues to be okay. So will Icons ‘work’? Possibly operationally, since they appear to be low quantity targeted. However I doubt it would impression their financials a lot.”

Likewise, Peter Syme, strategic journey and tourism advisor, was not enthused: “It’s clearly a PR/Advertising and marketing play to boost consciousness and get some buzz again right into a drifting model. All of us maintain anticipating one thing huge and new and scaleable
from Airbnb nevertheless it by no means appears to return. Innovation is tough, particularly whenever you
need to double or triple the worth of a $98B firm.”

And Stephanie Daniel, co-founder and CEO of PhocusWire Scorching 25 Journey Startup Legends, sees it each methods. 

Icons launch is effectively timed – persons are desperately searching for experiences that
really feel aligned to their pursuits and passions, and we completely agree that there’s
an enormous alternative to ‘translate our digital lives into extra magic in the actual
world’ as that’s precisely what we’re doing with Legends TravelDNA
desire profiles to energy extra personalization throughout the business,” she wrote to PhocusWire in an e-mail. “Nevertheless the launch does really feel considerably buzz targeted versus being a
really scalable new providing with broad impression.”

Development in a maturing sector?

Starkov additionally referenced Airbnb’s development over the corporate’s life. Since its founding, he wrote, Airbnb has loved what he referred to as “unbridled development,” noting that even the pandemic – which primarily shut nearly all of the journey business down – benefited the corporate.

However that’s come on account of Airbnb’s occupation of the STR house in its nascent type.

“Sadly for Airbnb, the short-term rental business is maturing,” wrote Starkov. “Different STR gamers like Vrbo and Reserving are worthy opponents, so are skilled trip rental administration firms like Vacasa and Evolve. On high of that revenge journey is coming to an finish. Add to all of that the continuing residential housing shortages and tremendous excessive mortgage charges, which implies restricted stock coming into the market.”