Airbnb launches feature to relocate users from crowded places and boosts travel category searches

To address “overtourism” in popular travel destinations, Airbnb on Wednesday unveiled a new feature that encourages users to search by travel category, not just destination.

The goal is to “relocate” users away from traveler-crowded venues like Venice, Paris or the largest US cities, Airbnb executives said.

Under the new Airbnb program, consumers can choose from up to 56 categories such as “beach,” “landscape,” “iconic cities,” or “design,” with the latter showcasing homes featured in architecture magazines. About four million items are tagged, and more categories will be added over time.

The overhaul is an alternative to the search box long used by Airbnb and other online travel sites, where users enter a destination and travel dates.

Airbnb users can still search the traditional way, but the category option offers an alternative to divert demand away from oversold locations, Chief Executive Brian Chesky said.

“We felt like everyone was going to the same places. You’re just typing in Los Vegas and Orlando and Miami and Rome and Los Angeles and New York,” Chesky said at a briefing unveiling the changes.

“We’re trying to spread everyone out across as many locations and dates as possible,” said Chesky, who called the plan “good for Airbnb,” but added that it would also “alleviate some of the overtourism problem.”

Users can go to the Categories tab at the top of the screen, select dates, and then browse pages of options at different prices in different cities or countries.

In developing the new feature, Airbnb asked some owners to update their photos so that the property’s profile page had a pool for “amazing pools” and “ski” properties showed snow, Chesky said

“Overtourism means there aren’t too many people traveling in the world … it’s too many people going to the same places at the same time,” said Chesky, who also pointed out Airbnb features for those with flexible time frames away from Airbnb’s most-demanded times.

Responding to the trend towards longer stays, Airbnb is tweaking the system to run “split stays,” which allow users to book two consecutive trips at the same time.

Another change is giving users three days to rebook or get a refund if a property doesn’t live up to what was promised. Under the current system, users only have 24 hours to complain. Airbnb launches feature to relocate users from crowded places and boosts travel category searches

Ryan Sederquist

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