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Airbnb unveils “biggest change…in a decade” with castle, treehouse categories

In what CEO Brian Chesky calls “the biggest change to Airbnb in a decade,” the home rental company introduced a sitewide makeover Wednesday that makes it easier to find offbeat and niche properties.

Why it matters: As travel companies gear up for the summer rush — which will be intensified this year by pent-up post-COVID demand — Airbnb is trying to differentiate itself and give consumers fresh options.

Driving the news: The upgrades Airbnb released Wednesday are designed to get people to expand their travel horizons beyond choosing a destination city and travel dates:

A new set of 56 “categories” of lodging — from castles and tiny homes to domes, treehouses and lakefront properties — allows people to browse and fantasy shop for places they didn’t know they could visit.A new “split stay” feature will suggest you divide your time between two nearby Airbnb properties if you’re planning to be away for a week or more.New “AirCover” protections offer more generous guarantees, safeguarding you if a host cancels, a property isn’t as advertised, or you feel unsafe.

Between the lines: Chesky says he wants to prevent “overtourism,” or too many people all trying to visit the same places (like Paris, London and Disney World).

The “categories” approach, which lets people check out properties by activity (golfing, skiing) or type of location (beachfront, vineyard, the Arctic) or physical features (A-frames, chef’s kitchens, treehouses), is meant to guide people off the beaten path.”We want to redistribute travel,” Chesky said at a news conference Tuesday describing the changes.

Details: Each “category” tells you approximately how many properties are listed in it, no matter where they are geographically or when they’re available.

The “amazing pools” category has more than a million listings, for instance, while “caves” has 600, “mansions” has 1,000 and “national parks” has 600,000.”We don’t just have castles — we have a lot of them,” said Chesky, noting that the 3,000 properties in the “castles” category are available at all different price points.His favorite categories are “design,” which has 20,000 properties that have been deemed architecturally interesting, and “OMG!” which has 500 weird and eclectic dwellings.

What’s next: “We’re going to keep adding a lot of categories,” Chesky said. “This is just the beginning.”

Editor’s note: This story was originally published on May 11.