Airbnb launches Neighborhood Guides and Local Lounges

Two new services designed to make renters feel less like tourists

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
November 13, 2012
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Big news out of Room rental website Airbnb, with the company launching two new services at a press event in San Francisco on Tuesday.

First, it introduced Neighborhoods, a feature that is designed to help renters and travelers find places in the vicinity of where they are staying. 

The new service offers the guides for seven cities so far: Rio de Janeiro, New York, San Francisco, London, Berlin, Paris, and Washington, D.C.

When a renter picks one of the available cities, they are asked what kind of neighborhood they are looking for. They can pick from options such as Great Transit, Dining, Peace & Quiet, Nightlife, Touristy, and Shopping.

For example, if you click on New York, and then choose Loved By New Yorkers it brings up places in Williamsburgh, the West Villiage, Union Square, Dumbo, Park Slope and Hell's Kitchen.

Click on Williamsburgh and it gives a  description of the neighborhood, featuring places to stay there, residents and pictures of the neighborhood. People who live in the area are encouraged to share their knowledge.

The point of the new service is to not only help renters find their way around, but also help them pick the best places to stay for them.

The second feature launched by Airbnb on Tuesday was a directory of local places that have partnered with the Airbnb called Local Lounges. They give patrons free Wi-Fi and free Airbnb travel guides. 

Right now the only Local Lounges are only 10 coffee shops in 10 San Francisco neighborhoods, including the Castro, Bernal Heights, SoMa and Nob Hill. 

The San Francisco-based company, which launched in August 2008, has seen substantial growth recently.

In June, the company hit a new milestone with 10 million guest nights booked through the platform.  That’s double the five million booked as of January 2012, and two million in June 2011. 

Airbnb also announced that the time that it was booking a new night stay every two seconds, a rate that has doubled over the previous five months. Airbnb currently has listings active in more than 19,000 cities and 192 countries.

Airbnb in the news

In September, Airbnb also announced that more than a quarter of its traffic comes from mobile users.  And more than half of those mobile users are accessing the service via an iOS device.

The Airbnb mobile app has exceeded one million downloads, and the company said that every five seconds, someone sends an Airbnb message via mobile.  In August, more than 530,000 messages were sent via mobile.

It was recently rumored that Peter Thiel would be putting $150 million into the company, along with some of Airbnb’s existing investors, including Andreessen Horowitz and Sequoia Capital, who were also expected to participate in the round.

Peter Thiel, who was co-founder and CEO of PayPal,  recently sold over 20 million of his Facebook shares for roughly $406 million. He was one of the earliest outside investor in Facebook, putting $500,000 into the company in 2004.

It was speculated that Thiel’s investment would bring Airbnb’s valuation to $2.5 billion.

In all, the company has raised over $120 million in venture capital.

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