Airbnb launches 'Airbnb Plus' to win over wealthier, pickier travelers

“Beautiful homes. Exceptional hosts. Verified for quality.”

That’s the promise of Airbnb’s new premium program aimed at more discerning travelers, Airbnb Plus.

This new tier of listings on the homesharing website will be inspected in-person by Airbnb staff in a pilot program of 2,000 homes in 13 cities: Austin, Barcelona, Cape Town, Chicago, Los Angeles, London, Melbourne, Milan, Rome, San Francisco, Shanghai, Sydney and Toronto.

Each and every Airbnb Plus listing will have to meet a set of 100 specific criteria for cleanliness, comfort and various upscale amenities including "thoughtful" design elements.

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"AirBnB Plus [properties] are all the comforts of home, plus more. These are beautiful homes, from exceptional hosts, and every single one of them are verified for quality," Airbnb cofounder Brian Chesky said onstage at a press conference held at The Masonic in San Francisco for members of the press and Airbnb staff.

This new tier will be followed by “Beyond by Airbnb” and “Collections,” which will feature more luxury, upscale homes as Airbnb continues to rehab an image that had fallen far too far into budget conscious territory — especially in the travel community.

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This new tier of listings on the homesharing website will be inspected in-person by Airbnb staff, and need to meet 100 specific criteria for cleanliness and comfort.  (Airbnb)

Travel agents, like TravelPulse's Tammy Levent, have been wary of using sharing economy services because so little can be controlled about the experience. When a travel agent is tasked with providing the trip of a lifetime, it's difficult to trust a property one has never been to, a host one has never met, or a company with so little history.

Meanwhile, the hotel industry is taking their problems with Airbnb head on and making their own changes to compete in the new marketplace.

Overall, the Airbnb website will become more customizable and easier to use, allowing guests to sort by “thousands of new categories” according to Chesky, rather than the current three.

Soon, prospective users will be able to sort based on various levels of comfort one is looking for, selecting not only the type of home or the amenities, but also whether the owner lives on the property or utilizes a property manager.

A stay at one of the first 2,000 Plus homes will cost an average of $250 a night.

It's been a busy few months at Airbnb. Recently, they announced a new branded apartments program and acquired Luxury Retreats — a move that allowed the company the ability to reach the type of customer AirbnbPlus, "Beyond" and "Collections" are trying to reach.