Airbnb's Most Exclusive Listings Are Now Available for More Than One Night

Airbnb's CMO on luring new guests with celebrity hosts and unique destinations with Icons

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Airbnb is hanging with the stars and wants to bring newbies along for the plane ride.

The online marketplace for house and vacation rentals has launched Icons, a new category of experiences influenced (and some even hosted) by big names in music, film, television, art, sports and more. Airbnb guests will get the chance to experience culture like the Disney Pixar Up house in New Mexico, the Ferrari Museum in Maranello, Italy or the iconic clock room of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

The new experiences, and accompanying major marketing push, are a heavy global awareness play to bring the brand top of mind for users looking to travel—specifically those experiencing Airbnb for the first time. Through a mix of market data and identifying chatter-generating cultural moments, the brand is primarily creating these experiences to drive higher consideration for consumers new to Airbnb.

The rollout comes as Airbnb faces more scrutiny from cities attempting to restrict housing units being used solely for Airbnbs, as well as consumers growing weary of the fees and cleaning responsibilities associated with staying in an Airbnb.

Different people, different places

Aside from partnering with major IPs like Pixar, Marvel and Prince, the brand is offering guests the opportunity to go international and stay with global stars like Bollywood actress Janhvi Kapoor, reggaeton superstar Feid and TikTok gaming sensation Khaby Lame.

Airbnb global head of marketing Hiroki Asai said Icons is the brand’s way of reaching new fanbases, demographics and age groups. The platform is currently active in over 200 countries and 81,000 cities.

reggaeton superstar Feid leaning on his monstrous tour bus
Guests will accompany reggaeton superstar Feid on his FERXXOCALIPSIS World Tour for a week of rehearsals, ride along on the tour bus and get backstage access to shows.Sismatyc/Airbnb

“When you think about areas where we want to grow—Latin America, Asia, certain parts of Europe—it’s really great to be able to tap into cultural icons to help fans participate with us in a different way,” Asai told ADWEEK.

Khaby Lame opens the door for Airbnb to increase its partnerships with creators, which ladders up to a broader strategy to reach different generations and fandoms. Currently, more than half of the platform’s user base is composed of millennials.

For example, Airbnb is curating a stay in Prince’s Purple Rain house in Minneapolis, Minnesota. To extend the momentum of the moment, Airbnb also provides intimate experiences during these stays, such as being able to listen to special tracks from Prince’s oeuvre in an exclusive studio session.

Buy-in from the head of Airbnb’s household

The Icons launch is not entirely new for the brand. Past Airbnb experiential activations include stays at Ikea, the last Blockbuster in the country and, most famously, Barbie’s Malibu Dreamhouse.

Airbnb’s in-house creative team, as well as a number of external creative partners like experiential agency Verb, have worked to created the Icon experiences. According to Asai, the brand saw 4.7 million views of experiences in 2023, all generated from earned media. There are over 50,000 experiences on the platform that range in eccentricity, from New York City food tours to hot air balloon rides in Turkey.

When it comes to gathering the right momentum and support behind these lofty initiatives, little convincing needs to be done across the Airbnb executive team. They see it as a way of tying into the brand’s origins and mission set by CEO and founder Brian Chesky, who comes from a design background.

“The executives and team members love that [Icons] is core to the DNA of Airbnb. It’s about inviting people into other people’s worlds,” Asai shared. “Airbnb started that way, with inviting people into living rooms and homes, and then it grew into tugboats and submarines and castles. And so, the idea of creating a world for people to list and for guests to participate in is very natural to us. It’s what gives us permission to do this.”

Despite having 6,900 employees (as of 2023), Asai said the organizational structure of Airbnb is similar to how a smaller company functions and enables close collaboration. In terms of the key stakeholders in the room when it comes to discussing and deciding on the Icons, Asai explained it’s a cross-collaborative effort. The decision-makers span multiple functions like communications, product and design.

Reinforcing the Airbnb narrative

But it’s not all about the new guests for the brand. More than 80% of bookings on Airbnb are group trips. Along with the Icons announcement, Airbnb also shared updates to its interface that provide a more seamless experience when booking group trips.

New features include shared wishlists and a redesigned messaging tab that allows other guests in the group to communicate with the host. The platform also tapped artists from around the world to design digital postcards of the destinations.

The interface updates reflect what the brand hopes to become a competitive advantage over one of the key players in the travel category: hotels. Airbnb ranks third in the market, after Expedia and The number of Airbnb listings surpassed its pre-pandemic high for the first time last year. This is despite cities around the globe passing laws to curb the number of Airbnbs.

“Now that people are traveling again, we’re reaching more and more people. We’re expanding, and our audience really needs to understand, ‘Why should I book an Airbnb versus a hotel?’ For the new traveler that’s coming to Airbnb or considering Airbnb, we just need to connect the dots for them,” Asai said.

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