Airbnb has grown a lot in the 10 years since co-founders Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky rented out three air mattresses in their San Francisco apartment. But even with 4.5 million places to stay in 81,000 cities across the globe, they realized Airbnb wasn’t for everyone — particularly Gebbia’s mother.
“My mom is a very particular kind of traveler,” Gebbia told ELLEDecor.com. “She is what somebody calls a clean freak. She has very high standards for cleanliness.”
Because of that, Gebbia says that she hasn’t stayed in Airbnbs as much as he’d like.
To appease her — and all the other people out there who’ve avoided booking an Airbnb because the idea of staying in someone else’s home is off-putting to them — Gebbia and the rest of the Airbnb team created a new tier of listings, called , that go above and beyond the basic standard of cleanliness, quality and style.
Airbnb Plus launched last week with 2,000 verified homes in 13 cities, including Austin, Barcelona, Cape Town, Chicago, Los Angeles, London, Melbourne, Milan, Rome, Shanghai, Sydney, Toronto and San Francisco, where I got to personally check out an Airbnb Plus.
Located far away from San Francisco's touristy hotel hub in Union Square, my in the historic Haight-Ashbury district was not only one of the cleanest Airbnbs I’ve ever stayed in, but also one of the most thoughtfully designed. Located on the top floor of a classic Victorian home, it had all sorts of modern touches, including white subway tile in the bathroom and marble countertops in the kitchen—not to mention freshly-sharpened knives so I could cut the baguette I procured from San Francisco's famed bakery properly, instead of mangling it with dull butter knives, like at other vacation rentals I’ve stayed at in the past.
But my favorite part were the unique details one would expect from staying in a historic house like this in San Francisco, including the bright yellow (and perfectly Instagrammable) front door, the antique four-poster bed in the master bedroom and the bottle of Pinot Noir the host left in the kitchen for me to enjoy outdoors in their perfectly landscaped backyard.
For a listing to qualify as an Airbnb Plus, a host must apply and then Airbnb sends someone—typically a photographer trained specifically to look for certain criteria—to verify the home against a 100+ point checklist.
“Some travelers want a little extra reassurance that the home has got things that they’re expecting and what they need,” says Amber Cartwright, the global design lead for Airbnb Plus.
To create the checklist, Cartwright and her team looked at what their best hosts were already doing and then took feedback from travelers and married those two lists together.
Nearly all the top hosts on Airbnb were already providing coffee and tea to their guests, so they added that to the checklist. On the other hand, most guests said they expected certain amenities in the bathroom, including a hairdryer, premium towels and shampoo and conditioner, all of which my listing had, plus individually packaged toothpaste and razors—just in case I forgot to bring my own. Easy-access lock boxes for keys are also par for the course with Airbnb Plus listings, a crucial part of my check-in process last week when my flight didn’t get me into SFO until after midnight.
While there’s no official Airbnb housekeeping service, each host is responsible for maintaining the level of cleanliness at their listings. Airbnb has no plans yet to require a follow up visit to verify whether an Airbnb Plus is upholding its standards, but they will ensure the quality of each listing through the guest reviews.
Ultimately, Airbnb Plus is about making it easier to find the best homes on Airbnb since it’s difficult to find just the right one with over 4.5 million listings on the platform.
“I’m willing to bet that for most everybody, there’s something that they’ll love,” Gebbia says. “The question is how do you find that?”
By leveling up their tools and categorization, Airbnb hopes they can do a better job matching people to the rental that’s right for them.
For business travelers, that would mean having places that has great Wi-Fi signal. For families, it would mean making it easier to search homes that have a crib.
“And for some people, it might be around higher level of standardization around cleanliness,” Gebbia says.
But, Airbnb Plus isn’t just about connecting clean freaks with the tidiest listings or trying to make Airbnbs more like hotels.
In fact, a listing’s style is just as important as the overall cleanliness to pass the Airbnb Plus in-person verification. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, Gebbia says a host’s personality must come through in the home’s style.
“The whole reason that people use our service is 'cause every home is different than every other home. That’s not changing,” Gebbia says. “In fact, we want to amplify what makes a home unique and different. People take a lot of pride in their home and we give them a way to share and feel proud of their personal, intimate space.”
“Our brand stands for and celebrates the differences of a home." If people want to feel like they’re in a generic sterile box of a room, there are other options, Gebbia says. "That’s not our brand.”