Airbnb enters the luxury segment with Airbnb Plus
Airbnb’s overwhelming success in the hospitality space is no secret. That said, it was only inevitable that the company would design a special offering geared towards the luxury traveller. Earlier this year, Airbnb did just that as it launched its Airbnb Plus product, a curated selection of high-end accommodation, available in just over a dozen cities. While Airbnb’s regular portfolio continues to woo travellers across the world, Airbnb Plus aims to offer a more premium “experience” through its carefully curated selection, earmarked by the team. The popular home rental service’s “niche” offering has been carefully screened to ensure utmost comfort, safety and, of course, the most authentic experience. Each property has been visited by an Airbnb inspector, to ensure that all the 100+ criteria have been met. Through Airbnb Plus, the company will enjoy a new customer base of high-spending travellers, who have traditionally frequented luxury hotels. Airbnb remains bullish about its expansion and its foray into the luxury space is a wise move, experts say, of the company that will see some 38.4 million users in 2018, according to estimates by market research company EMarketer.
My Airbnb Plus experience in London
I flew to London last month, as a guest of Airbnb, to enjoy a first-hand experience of an Airbnb Plus property. I stayed for 48 hours at a beautiful London townhouse, spread across three floors, at the heart of the Fulham neighbourhood. Being in Fulham proved to be particularly interesting for me because it is a relatively “non-touristy” neighbourhood, with a nice mix of people from all over, taking up residence over here. The picturesque neighbourhood is no more than 20 minutes from Central London and is visibly gentrified, which explains the profusion of hipster cafes and bars all over the place. What’s more, on a good day, it will take you about 20 minutes to get there from Heathrow.
Cut to my accommodation – I really did luck out! I was assigned what is probably the most “Instagram-friendly” Airbnb accommodations in the British capital. Owned by an affable Portuguese lady by the name of Fern, this gorgeous townhouse features a living room, and a kitchen on the ground floor, which opens out into a secret garden at the back, perfect for tea or gin cocktails on a sunny English afternoon. The dreamy living room features a beautiful alcove (Instagrammers alert) looking out onto the street. There is also a beautiful dining area with a vintage-style dining table and a couple of grandfather clocks to match the decor.
The fully-equipped kitchen — I can’t seem to get my eyes off the vintage tea shelf with a whole variety of English teas — is good enough to cook up a storm with every possible amenity, including a microwave, dishwasher among others.
I literally spent most of my time in London curling up on the couch in the living room, catching up with work in the dining room, fixing my cup of tea in the kitchen or just enjoying a cocktail in the garden.
I walk up the stairs to discover three bedrooms, spread across three levels. My bedroom, seemingly the master bedroom, comes with massive windows overlooking the street below. A plush bedroom with all the trappings of a comfortable home — antique mirror, massive cupboards, soft carpets, a dressing table and a huge bed with the most beautiful bed linen.
Chatting with my host
I did want to compliment my host, Fern, on her beautiful home and so I asked her to come over for some tea and a chat, which she gladly accepted. “The house,” says the London-based Portuguese lady, “is a labour of love”. I have carefully curated every piece of decor and art in this space to ensure it is as beautiful as possible. I want to give my guests the impression of being in a home away from home. I want them to get as authentic a feel as possible.” On being one of the lucky few hosts in London to be flagged under the prestigious Airbnb Plus label, Fern adds, “I am quite happy and honoured to be part of this. I hadn’t really aimed for it. I only wanted to create a luxurious, premium experience for my guests, through amenities, through art, through design and through my decor. I guess it paid off.” Interesting to note that all Airbnb Plus hosts are verified by the company and enjoy ratings of 4.8 and above.
Airbnb Plus is available in 13 cities – Austin, Barcelona, Cape Town, Chicago, Los Angeles, London, Melbourne, Milan, Rome, San Francisco, Shanghai, Sydney and Toronto
Everything about my Airbnb Plus accommodation screamed “London” and it really is an immersive experience in every sense, with a decidedly premium feel.
Fulham, Greater London, England, United Kingdom www.airbnb.co.in
Riaan Jacob George