In February of 2018, Airbnb took a huge step in doubling down on the professionalization of vacation rentals. With short-term stays no longer a fringe alternative and travelers’ tastes (and demands) changing rapidly, the home-sharing platform responded big with Airbnb Plus. No more air mattresses or unkept living spaces — home-sharing is now all grown up.
In this post, we’re providing an official report card for Airbnb Plus. We’ll dive into what exactly it is, how it’s paving the way for hospitality standards, it’s potential pitfalls, and the ultimate question: is Airbnb Plus worth it? We’ll analyze MarketMinder data to see the differences in daily rates, occupancy rates, and revenue between Plus properties, Superhost properties, and their traditional counterparts (spoiler: it’s not even close).
What is Airbnb Plus?
Airbnb Plus is a relatively new program that recognizes properties for being exceptionally-designed, well-located, comfortable, and spotlessly-maintained. It’s not just the property that matters — hosts themselves are held to a significantly higher standard of hospitality and communication. No bad reviews, and no cancellations in the past year.
Why do Airbnb Plus? In addition to receiving the fancy badge of approval, featured properties are nudged to the top of the platform’s ranking system. More visibility = more bookings. As you’ll see below, this results in significantly higher occupancy rates.
Hosts are given a professional Airbnb Plus photographer, interior design advice, and editorial suggestions to make listings pop. Hosts are also granted access to premium customer support options.
Airbnb Plus Requirements and Checklist
Wondering how to become Airbnb Plus? Before switching tabs, make sure you’re familiar with the requirements.
Requirements for Airbnb Plus
- The listing must be an entire place or a private bedroom with a private bathroom
- The listing must be located in one of the designated cities located throughout the world
- Hosts must have maintained a rating of 4.8 stars and accepted 95% of booking requests over the past year
Once qualified, hosts must pay a $149 one-time application fee, complete a remote visual assessment and a thorough, 100-point Airbnb Plus inspection. Finally, hosts have a photoshoot with a professional photographer and upload their listing.
Airbnb Plus vs. Superhost Status
Airbnb Plus essentially takes all the standards required of Superhosts one step further. The in-home assessment and entire application process ensure there’s a higher level of warmth and comfort in every featured home.
Being a Superhost is not an eligibility requirement for the program, and property managers are encouraged to leapfrog the Superhost status if they meet all requirements.
In terms of what truly matters, as you’ll see in the data below, Airbnb Plus hosts earn significantly more than Superhosts. Occupancy rates are higher, but most of the revenue differential is due to higher average daily rates. Sparkling photos and curated designs go a long way in boosting a home’s value.
Unsurprisingly, this number shrivels in comparison to both Superhost properties and traditional Airbnbs. In fact, Airbnb Plus properties only make up 0.6% of all properties in the 13 markets. Superhosts make up 20.2% and traditional spots make up 79.2% of all properties.
Globally (as of January 2020) there are now over 26,000 active Plus listings, and the distribution is still very much the same.
Average Daily Rates: Plus Properties Charge Up to 70% More
It’s no secret that Airbnb Plus properties maintain a higher standard of hospitality — but how much is that standard really worth? About 70% more.
Looking at the data for average daily rates, one theme becomes glaringly clear: hosts are able to charge significantly more than their neighbors. While Airbnb advertised Plus listings would cost roughly $250 per night, real-time data is showing that number to be well over $280.
Airbnb Plus Occupancy Rates: Average 15% More Occupancy
As mentioned above, arguably the most significant benefit of enrolling with the program is the rankings boost. It goes without saying that many markets around the world are now largely saturated and oversupplied. Guests are unlikely to toggle past the second or third results page, so it’s becoming harder and harder to stand out from the pack.
The exclusive program is a surefire way to rank at or near the top. Based on the data, Plus properties average 15% more occupancy than standard properties and 2% more than Superhost properties.
Cities where hosts stand the most to gain from going Plus include Shanghai (where listings see and incredible 37% more occupancy), Barcelona (23%), Toronto (18%), Melbourne (17.5%), Milan (17.4%), and Rome (17.2%).
Surprisingly, there are a handful of cities where Plus properties actually underperform compared to Superhost properties in terms of occupancy rate. Airbnb Plus hosts in Austin, Chicago, London, and San Francisco tend to average lower occupancy rates than their Superhost counterparts.
Airbnb Plus Revenue: Plus Properties Earn Up to 400% More in North America
Of the 13 pilot cities in the program, five are located in North America. In those cities, Plus properties earn significantly more than Superhost properties and far more than standard properties. The theme is generally the same across all cities, but hosts in Austin stand the most to gain as Plus properties earn 404% more than standard properties.
In Europe, Oceana, and Asia, the trend is no different — going Plus means earning significantly more revenue. Sydney and Barcelona stand out as markets where Plus properties also earn well over 300% more than standard properties.
The Downsides of Airbnb Plus
Besides the application process and Airbnb Plus fees, the most glaring downside of the program is the promise of exclusivity (in the United States). When enrolling in the program, hosts in the US agree to not only deny booking requests from other platforms but to also cancel all reservations that have been booked with a third-party site. If hosts are located in traditional destination markets (like ski resorts or coastal gems) where many listings are made through Vrbo and Booking.com, this caveat may be particularly detrimental.
All this is to say: it depends. If your revenues are currently coming from fairly distributed sources, it’s worth second-guessing the decision.
The Bottom Line: Is Airbnb Plus Worth It?
If Airbnb is currently your primary short-term rental revenue stream, it’s hard to ignore the upsides of this program. Curated designs, professional photography, increased visibility, increased occupancy rates, increased daily rates — this sounds good to any property manager. If you have the time and money to invest in your property and submit the application, we’d recommend going for it.