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You Can Book A Château, Beachfront Villa Or Private Atoll: Airbnb Launches Upmarket Brand

Airbnb, which started as a web-based way to rent spare beds or rooms for cheap stays, is expanding into the upper reaches of the hospitality market by launching Airbnb Luxe. The new brand will facilitate the short-term leasing of expensive properties, with an initial stable of about 2,000 luxury homes worldwide.

An Airbnb Luxe property in Punta Mita, Mexico

The creation of Airbnb Luxe formalizes a trend already apparent in Airbnb bookings — the growth of the upper end of the market. Airbnb said last year saw an increase of more than 60% in the number of bookings through the company that cost at least $1K/night.

Airbnb Luxe is also building on the expertise in luxury travel the company gained from its 2017 acquisition of Luxury Retreats, a Canadian platform for short-term upmarket rentals.

Some of the rentals that will be available at Airbnb Luxe include French châteaux, Italian villas, "award-winning" homes in New Zealand and South Africa, and certain places with specific associations, such as the the posh Jamaican villa where Ian Fleming wrote his James Bond novels. The brand even offers an entire atoll in French Polynesia for rent.

The company says that before being selected for the brand, each candidate for Airbnb Luxe will be examined using more than 300 criteria. The properties will be judged on factors like materials and finishes, rare or unique features, highly functional design and chef-grade appliances.

The global luxury travel market has been growing and is forecast to expand at a compounded growth rate of 6.7% between 2018 and 2026, according to a 2019 report by Coherent Market Insights.

Other hospitality specialists have already jumped into short-term upscale rentals. For example, earlier this year Marriott launched its home-sharing service, called Homes & Villas by Marriott International, across the U.S., Europe and Latin America. Eventually Marriott could have more than 2,000 rooms in high-end homes in 100 markets.

Airbnb has been expanding in the hospitality sector in other ways recently as well. In a foray into the more traditional side of the hospitality business early this year, Airbnb acquired HotelTonight, an app specializing in finding hotel rooms at the last minute, ideally at a discount.