Home Innovate Airbnb Unveils Listings for 'Up' House, Prince's 'Purple

Airbnb Unveils Listings for 'Up' House, Prince's 'Purple

Rain' Mansion, and Other 'Icons' Experiences in a Bid to Stay Relevant. The vacation rental company aims to remain competitive in a "very mature" market with the launch of its "Icons" category.

By Inc.Arabia Staff
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From a rare stay at Prince's mansion to the chance to join a tour with reggaeton star Feid, or even spend a night in Disney and Pixar's iconic homes, Airbnb's latest listings show how a company as old as the iPhone can remain relevant. The company recently unveiled an "Icons" category, featuring 11 experiences -- from intimate concerts to once-in-a-lifetime stays -- all available for free or under $100.

As competition in the short-term rental market intensifies, with rivals like Austin-based VRBO and San Francisco-based Kindred gaining ground and hotels in major cities benefiting from tighter regulations, Airbnb is doubling down on its efforts to stay current through innovation

"They're saying, we're going to do something that nobody else can duplicate," says Cait Lamberton, a marketing professor at The Wharton School. "And that gives you a way to keep growing in a very mature, competitive market." 

The maturity of the market for short-term stays makes innovation difficult, Lamberton says. Companies can try adding features or improving quality, but these efforts have limitations, especially given customers' focus on affordability. "Every category has a lifecycle, every single one of them," Lamberton says. "When a category goes from growth into maturity, there are more competitors in the space, which puts downward pressure on prices."

Over the past five years, Airbnb -- which recently disclosed Q4 2023 revenue of $2.22 billion -- has launched more than 90 exclusive, one-of-a-kind stays and experiences. Last year alone, 35 such listings, including the viral Barbie Malibu Dreamhouse, collectively garnered 4.7 million views, demonstrating strong demand for immersive travel offerings.

"In fact, three times as many articles were written about the Barbie Malibu Dreamhouse as Airbnb's IPO, just to give you a sense," CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky said in a recent earnings call.

Airbnb is now formalizing these experiences into the new "Icons" category. Users interested in these experiences will be asked to sign up on the website or app. Airbnb will make random selections from those who sign up and issue those guests a digital golden ticket granting access to Icons experiences, which range from free to about $100 per guest. The company plans to distribute more than 4,000 golden tickets throughout the year. 

This move aligns with a broader demand for experiences and events such as concerts, festivals, and conferences. According to data from Allied Market Research, the consumer experience economy is expected to soar to $2.1 trillion by 2032.

Airbnb isn't alone in capitalizing on this trend. Recently, during the solar eclipse, many companies seized the opportunity to offer unique experiences and products. Delta, for instance, hosted exclusive viewing parties from the sky, while Princess Cruises provided a sea-based vantage point for the celestial spectacle. 

"Icons is a compelling new way to do marketing...and help shift the brand to be more than just a place to stay and create space to offer new products and services," Chesky told Reuters.

Photo: Courtesy Airbnb; Frederik Vercruysse, Thomas Prior, Ryan Lowry

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