Airbnb to Start Luxury Mansion & Penthouse Rentals

Airbnb is looking to expand its market, particularly for those of you with a fat wallet or have the taste for lavish living.

The company is planning to launch a new rental service for mega-homes, mansions and penthouses that will be inspected to ensure they pass the criteria according to sources speaking to Bloomberg.

An official name has yet to be determined, but this fancy “Airbnb Lux” tier follows the company’s acquisition of Luxury Retreats earlier this year, a Canadian company that offers bespoke vacation experiences with more than 4,000 villas and vacation homes listed. Interestingly, those listings haven’t been featured on Airbnb’s website yet.

Additionally, it seemed to be a matter of time before this tier would be offered, as Airbnb has been getting the public acquainted with its higher-end offerings by arranging for celebrities to stay at them, who then share it through social media. For example, Beyoncé featured a $10,000-a-night Airbnb while in the Santa Clara area to perform at Super Bowl 50, and Selena Gomez stayed in a $3,750-a-night oceanfront Airbnb while in Malibu last year.

This new tier will be tested in some markets toward the end of the year, and if successful, the service will be introduced to the platform.

Florida Airbnb Housing Doubles Again in 2016

The number of visitors to Florida choosing to stay in private homes through the Airbnb home-sharing app continues to explode and has topped 1.5 million for the 2016 year, the company announced Tuesday.

With Florida attracting more than 100 million visitors a year Airbnb still represents a tiny fraction of the market. But it now has captured more than 1 percent of Florida’s visitors, with survey evidence that some of those visitors wouldn’t have come otherwise. And the company discusses plenty of growth potential.

Airbnb reported that in 2015 its client homes housed about 753,000 people in the Sunshine State, and the year before it was 303,000.

This year it’s 1.5 million visitors. Airbnb also reported it’s up to 32,000 host homes, up 74 percent since last year.

And the company said that brought in $273 million in rent for those operators, supplemental income for the vast majority of them.

The continuing growth has drawn both praise from Gov. Rick Scott and warnings from a group called AirbnbWATCH, which raises concerns about the largely unregulated [and to date mostly still untaxed] new lodging option.

“It is great news that Airbnb and the home sharing community are helping more families experience the Sunshine State,” Scott stated in a news release issued by the company. “During challenging times in our state this year, Airbnb offered emergency accommodations to many families in need following the Orlando terrorist attack and Hurricane Matthew. We truly appreciate when businesses like Airbnb help Floridians in need.

The vast majority of Airbnb service still is in South Florida, with Miami-Dade and Broward counties accounting for more than half of the business. The company has not yet negotiated systematic tax collection systems with either of those counties, so their tax revenues from Airbnb homes is hit-and-miss, based on what the counties and operators know about each other and local and Florida laws.

Elsewhere, however, Airbnb has set up tax collection systems in 31 counties and reported that it remitted more than $20 million statewide so far this year, with more receipts pending. The taxes paid so far include $900,000 in Pinellas, $800,000 in Orange, $500,000 in Brevard  and $300,000 in Lee counties.

Central Florida market continues to increase rapidly. Both Orange and Osceola counties saw 140 percent increases in business in 2016. The Kissimmee Airbnb market took in 154,000 visitors, and the Orlando market took in 114,000.

The company conducted a survey of guests in Miami and found 36 percent said they probably would not have come without the service, and others stated that they were able to stay longer. The company also touted the spinoff economic boom to tourist attractions, restaurants and shops, particularly in neighborhoods such as Miami’s Little Havana that otherwise have little or no tourist lodging.

“Home sharing is an economic driver to cities and neighborhoods in Florida that typically get overlooked due to the lack of hotels,” Airbnb Florida Policy Director Tom Martinelli stated in the release. “Meanwhile, the infusion of new revenue to state and county coffers is helping local policymakers fund critical local services.”

Miami-Dade saw $113 million in Airbnb business in 2016; followed by Broward, $28 million; Osceola, $18.3 million; Orange, $14.3 million; Pinellas County, $12.3 million; Palm Beach County, $9.5 million; Monroe County, $8.5 million; Lee, $6.7 million, Sarasota County, $6.7 million; and Hillsborough County, $5.1 million. Also, 13 other Florida counties also topped $1 million in Airbnb business, according to the company.

You Can Airbnb Dracula’s Castle in Transylvania for Halloween

Horror fans, rejoice. Airbnb recently announced that the real life Dracula’s Castle (Bran Castle) situated in Transylvania, Romania has been listed on the company’s site as a special getaway for Halloween. Two lucky guests will get the chance to spend a ghastly night inside the legendary vampire’s abode which will be hosted by Dacre Stoker—the great grand-nephew of Dracula author Bram Stoker.  The winning pair will be immediately immersed in the story of the iconic book’s protagonist, Jonathan Harker, as they travel to the spooky fortress via horse-drawn carriage. Shortly afterwards, they will meet Dacre who will relay a handful of ghost stories, historical anecdotes and retell the Dracula myth.

“Bran Castle is where the legend of Dracula was born, and I have many stories to share as I guide the guests through the dark secret passages of the castle for a private unveiling of its many mysteries. Bram Stoker included many references to real people and real historical anecdotes and questioned whether vampires are really a myth at all,” said Dacre Stoker.

Guests will also be offered a candlelit dinner and are expected to sleep in “luxurious velvet-trimmed coffins” all by their lonesome. After surviving the night, the guests are then treated to a hearty breakfast on the castle’s terrace with a gorgeous vista of the Transylvanian skyline. In order to win, interested folks must head over to the official Airbnb listing page where they are asked one straightforward question: “What would you say to the Count if you were to come face-to-fang with him in his own castle?”

Take a look at the spine-tingling photos below and let us know if you’re willing to spend the night in Dracula’s castle.

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Win a Night Inside a Taco Bell

Not since that night in college when we smoked way too much have we thought about spending a night inside a Taco Bell. Then, while scouring Airbnb for unique stays, the thought crossed our minds again, when we came across this listing. Taco Bell wants to give you a SteakCation. One lucky winner along with three of their friends will travel to Ontario for an overnighter in a Taco Bell. But fear not! You won’t be sleeping on freshly mopped floors or in booths, Taco Bell has decked out the location with bunk beds, a big screen, video games, and plenty of their new Steak Doubledillas to keep you happy. Plus, a Taco Bell Butler will make sure you’re taken care of during your stay. The only requirement is that you Live Más.

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Travel: Airbnb Asks Hosts to Be Less Racist

It appears that the short-term rental company Airbnb has heard African Americans’ complaints about discrimination in their services, grievances aired publicly over Twitter and in media outlets including The Root. On Thursday, Airbnb announced new guidelines for their members on how to reduce racial biases that leave African Americans with fewer opportunities to enjoy the service.

Wrote Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky in a letter to his members Thursday:

Discrimination is the opposite of belonging, and its existence on our platform jeopardizes this core mission. Bias and discrimination have no place on Airbnb, and we have zero tolerance for them. Unfortunately, we have been slow to address these problems, and for this I am sorry. I take responsibility for any pain or frustration this has caused members of our community. We will not only make this right; we will work to set an example that other companies can follow.

The company issued a 32-page report that details the new changes. Its lead author is Laura Murphy, a former American Civil Liberties Union attorney, who Airbnb called in for a diagnostic check of its policies. Other civil rights heavy-hitters, including former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Wade Henderson, also contributed to the report. The new Airbnb rules boil down to four major changes the company is asking its members to abide by to root out racial discrimination in Airbnb rentals:

  • Requiring all Airbnb hosts to sign a “Airbnb Community Commitment,” which is described in Chesky’s letter as “a stronger, more detailed nondiscrimination policy.” It pledges that all members are to be treated “with respect, and without judgment or bias,” regardless of their race, religion, sex, or gender.  
  • Instituting a new “Open Doors” policy that obligates Airbnb to accommodate any guest who reports discrimination—past, present, or future. Airbnb has pledged to find  “a similar place to stay if one is available on Airbnb, or … an alternative accommodation elsewhere” for anyone filing such a complaint.
  • Expanding the Airbnb option called “Instant Book,” which makes a host’s home available immediately upon booking, without the host having to approve the guest ahead of time.
  • Making an anti-bias training available to Airbnb members, with Airbnb publicly acknowledging those who chose to complete the course.

The “Open Doors” policy seems a bit superficial in that it doesn’t seem to do much to actually correct the racism: There is no stated penalty for those who actually discriminate, nor anything that disincentivizes discrimination to begin with. The company offers to find the offended guests alternative accommodations, but those guests would end up in a place that was not their preferred choice anyway.

The “Instant Book” and anti-bias trainings sound like promising steps, but it will be interesting to see how many members actually volunteer for them. Other steps mentioned in the report, like reducing the use of members’ photos in the Airbnb booking function could also offer some reassurance.

These are important first steps, but there is likely more needed to thoroughly weed out the “widespread discrimination against African-American guests,” that Harvard researchers found in Airbnb services back in January.

“There are still additional factors at play here and policies to establish in the new system,” says Sherrell Dorsey, founder of the daily black tech newsletter ThePLUG, who has written about Airbnb alternatives for African Americans. “For instance, if customers are able to instantly book a place without the need for host approval, what happens to that customer if they arrive on someone’s doorstep who refuses to let them in or worse? I’d like to understand more of the thinking behind the long game and what the company is doing to ensure safety for all of their users.”

Part of the impetus for this new initiative may be that Airbnb is losing customers to new home-sharing services like Innclusive, Noirbnb, and Cozy Oasis, which cater directly to people of color for short-term rental services. Chesky admits in his letter that his company “has been slow on this issue” of rental discrimination, but some African Americans aren’t waiting around for Airbnb to figure it out. As with most things, black leisure is not dependent upon white approval.

Travel: You Can Spend the Night in an Underwater Room Surrounded by Sharks

airbnb has played host to some interesting properties, including the likes of Vincent van Gogh’s bedroom, a floating house on the River Thames, a penthouse at the top of Holmenkollbakken, a cable car suspended above the French Alps and a refurbished KLM plane. But it’s latest offering is perhaps its wildest yet: a submerged room in the shark tank of L’Aquarium de Paris.

The lodging giant’s latest “Night At” installment, the offering will see the Parisian aquarium hosting its first-ever sleepover in the shark tank. Boasting 360-degree views of the shark-infested tank, the stay will also feature an intimate meal for the guest and his or her companion, not to mention a behind-the-scenes look at the aquarium and sharks courtesy of a marine biologist and record-breaking freediver Fred Buyle. And while the underwater space is more than safe, airbnb does have a few house rules:

•No selfies after dark. Remember, sharks are sensitive to light.
•Avoid seeing Jaws before your sleepover. They’re kinder than you think!
•No sleepwalking or night swimming.
•Don’t eat the chum.
•No diving.
•Keep your heads and feet in the bedroom at all times.
•Sheep can’t swim, so count sharks instead.
•Don’t take the bait.

Those interested can submit a 50-550 character entry online by 11:59 pm CET on April 3 telling airbnb a little about themselves, where they’re from and why they “belong with the sharks for a night.” And if you aren’t a Parisian, fear not: winners will be flown in from wherever they are in the world.

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Travel: You Can Now Rent Your Own Private Island or Jungle Treehouse on Airbnb

You have to hand it to Airbnb. After almost singlehandedly revolutionizing everyone’s holiday options by making it cool to stay in someone else’s private pad while they’re away, they’ve now done it again by offering a huge selection of private islands and jungle and forest treehouses to rent.

Airbnb’s selection totals some 620 treehouses and 270 private islands around the globe, with the service now offering £100 off each booking when you spend a minimum of £400 until March 9.

It all falls under the service’s “Love This? Live There” campaign, which has managed to rope in the British adventurer and explorer, Bear Grylls, along with the upcoming (and much anticipated) Jungle Book live-action film to highlight the private island and jungle treehouse getaways respectively.

All properties are, of course with Airbnb, privately owned by real people. The island featured in the TV spot – known as Bird Island, sitting 20 minutes away from Placencia, Belize – belongs to a guy called Fred who developed the island over the course of two years. Meanwhile, the treehouse was built over the course of two-and-a-half years with no electricity by Eva and Brian, who jacked in the city for a slice of the jungle.

Travel: You Can Now Rent Vincent Van Gogh’s “Bedroom” on Airbnb

The Art Institute of Chicago is currently hosting an exhibition of all three paintings that Post-Impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh made of his bedroom in Arles in the South of France; to celebrate the occasion, the Institute has recreated the Dutch master’s bedroom and put it up for rent on Airbnb.

According to the listing:

This room will make you feel like you’re living in a painting. It’s decorated in a Post-Impressionist style, reminiscent of Southern France and times gone by. Its furniture, bright colors, and artwork will give you the experience of a lifetime.

This experience can be yours for the low, low price of $10 USD per night “for no other reason than that I [Vincent] need to buy paint.” If you have $10,000 USD burning a hole in your pocket, maybe Beyoncé’s Super Bowl abode is more your style instead.

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Travel: Would You Rent A ‘Netflix And Chill’ Room For 400 Bucks A Night?

“Netflix & Chill” has become a cultural phenomenon that anyone who has the will, desire, and fortitude to take part in should be able to. But what do you do when you’ve got moms who ruin your special bonding time with the guy who literally dressed up as Netflix & Chill on Tinder? If you’re over 18, you just log on to AirBnb and rent a Netflix & Chill room to watch movies, make the sex, and listen to Ariana Grande’s Christmas EP.

According to the room’s description, it’s a totally rentable art project that two people (no groups, no parties, nothing but couples) can rent to enjoy some precious alone time. Is Netflix provided? Absolutely. And just to make sure you’re really in the mood, the room’s also outfitted with a Netflix bed and a whole host of other amenities to make your night an experience you won’t soon forget.

Here’s the description:

The Netflix & Chill Airbnb Room is a project presented by ART404 + Tom Galle. With this project we bring the famous ‘Netflix & Chill meme’ to life and offer it as an IRL experience that people can rent for a night.

The room is designed and equipped to experience ‘Netflix & Chill’ the best way possible.

Everything a couple needs to fully experience:

– The original Netflix and Chill Bed
– A fully stacked mini bar: Champagne, Wine, Rose, Rum, Vodka, Gin, Bourbon, Whiskey, Beer etc, soda and all kinds of juices to mix drinks.
– A HD projector connected with the new AppleTV and Netflix account, with remote controllers for both.
– Surround sound speakers around the bed.
– A beautiful view over the city, especially during sundown.
– Access to the rooftop with beautiful New York skyline view.
– Large bathroom with marble finish.
– Great location with a wide variety of restaurants close by, to visit or oder to the room.

Those lucky enough to spend the night in this room can also use the roof (for non-sexual purposes only, probably) and will be allowed to smoke if they let the owners know in advance that they’ll need a stogie after all that Netflix. At $400, the rate’s absurd, sure, and you could probably get the same experience by getting a room on Hotels.com. But how cool would it be to let people know you stayed in a room only meant for your consumption of Friends and a little bit of hanky-panky? (Okay, maybe like a 4/10, but still!)

See more pictures here. Would you spend a night here?

Travel: Airbnb, Netflix and Chill: 10 Spots For a Couples Getaway

Winter has different connotations for different people. For some, it means bitter cold and short days. For others, it means window shopping, hearty meals and curling up with your better half. The key to beating/enjoying winter is to take advantage of the seasonal uniqueness on offer. With this in mind, we have curated the following list of romantic Airbnb cabin getaways:  the perfect hideouts for long weekends, a hot cup of coffee, and your favorite person.

Boho Guesthouse in Ojai

If you prefer to simply give winter the middle finger, this boho decked out guesthouse is the perfect vessel to enjoy the Southern California Sun. Decorated with local artwork; guests get to enjoy a juice/wine bar, secluded garden, custom-made bed and all the rustic charm of Ojai. Link

Secluded Cottage in Washington

Nestled on a babbling brook in Chuckanut Bay outside of Bellingham, Washington, this cottage is a unique cabin. The owner takes an earth-first approach to life and guests get to reap the benefits. Highlights include farm fresh eggs, a private hot tub, access to kayaks, a fire pit and use of the outdoor kitchen.  Link

Off the Grid in Costa Rica

Few locations do eco-tourism like Costa Rica, and this cabin/tree house takes environmentally friendly to the next level. Constructed out of up-cycled materials, the treehouse sits on 35 acres of private land surrounded by natural hot and cool springs in the north-central Costa Rican heartland. Wake up to the sounds of howler monkeys and toucans in your own rain forest escape.  Link

Secluded Carmel

One of most beautiful spots in the United States, Carmel, California, enjoys vistas and beaches that are straight out of a coffee table book. This Airbnb is walking distance to woodland hikes, the beach, and downtown Carmel. Daily continental breakfast is a nice extra to fuel your exploring.  Link

Cozy in Colorado

For the couple looking for a true winter escape, this cabin hidden away in the beautiful Rocky Mountains is perfect. An old fashioned heating stove, big screen television, and comfortable living room make it a great place stay in for a weekend. There is also access to a local saloon and hiking if you get a little stir crazy. Link

Star Gaze in the Texas Hill Country

Located in what many consider the most scenic region of Texas, this cabin rests on ten acres of land. With only sheep and llamas to keep you company, this is definitely a quiet retreat where relaxation can take on many different forms including a soaking tub, outdoor shower,  movies on the big screen, or casting your eyes upward to take in the Texas sky while staying warm around the fire pit. Only a ten minute drive from Fredericksburg if your better half wants to shop or wine taste. Link

Farm-Fresh in Nashville

For those who enjoy rustic design and don’t want to leave the comforts of home behind, this is the cabin for you. Located about an hour outside of Nashville, this Airbnb offers a fully stocked kitchen, walking trails, seasonal farm fresh eggs, and sits on an operating farm. A wood burning stove, hiking trails and beautiful sunsets add to the country charm. Link

Snowed In in Maine

If looking for a winter wonderland, this is the cabin for you. Cable TV, Wi-Fi, an iHome player and a kitchenette allow you to enjoy the comforts of home, but the real pull of this Airbnb is its location in rural Maine. Walk down to harbor or grab a freshly cooked lobster at the local market. Fantastic hiking, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing can also be found in the area.Link