Friday, 13 March 2009

AirBnB moves into apartment rentals

AirBed& has rebranded itself as AirBnB. Why? Because, despite only launching last August, they've already outgrown their original concept. Users aren't simply offering other travellers an airbed. Many of them are pulling out all the stops. Take a look on their homepage and you'll now see a gallery of bedrooms that wouldn't look place on a boutique hotel site. Ok, they've been specially selected by the powers that be, but there's definitely not an inflatable mattress in sight.

In another departure, the site has also found that members have been actively posting listings for holiday homes and slightly longer-term stays. There's certainly a gap in the market for this. Especially for a site that is going to move with the times. So far, AirBnB has shown itself to be a savvy worker by using Twitter and often linking in with current events, such as touting accommodation for this week's SXSW festival in Texas.

They'd better act fast though. Just yesterday, Tripadvisor announced at ITB (a huge international travel show in Berlin) that they were looking to do a similar thing and wanted to encourage more of their members to review holiday-home rentals. Last year, they bought FlipKey, a US-orientated site that carries thousands of rental-property reviews.

These sort of peer-to-peer sites could also be great for finding travellers' houseshares. When I found myself searching for a place in Argentina, I used Craigslist.
(It surprises me how many people still think this is a US-only site. Check out the worldwide coverage here.)

Craigslist is legendary as a simple, no-frills replication of newspaper classifieds, b
ut there's definitely room for a more sophisticated alternative. The first houseshare I found here had a basic listing with a couple of pic, but, helpfully, they'd added links to an MSN Spaces account and a Facebook group - which brought more pictures and references from past housemates. Now, wouldn't it be great if there was one site that did all that? Can AirBnB fill the gap?