At about the same time Airbnb launched its brand-new, largest-ever campaign, Live There, it also quietly launched a brand-new pilot program that tests the platform’s ability to offer more of a hospitality-driven, hotel-like experience.
The pilot, called Sonoma Select, will officially begin in July and it applies to a select number of highly-rated listings in Sonoma, California. If you choose to turn on the Sonoma Select filter, you’re shown about 37 different listings, all of which offer Instant Booking, 24-hour check-in, and local amenities that include “local treats, wine, upgraded bath products, and a guidebook.”
Each of the listings varies in price point with an average nightly rate of $281, and all 37 listings as of April 26 are for entire homes or apartments. But what really sets these Airbnb listings apart from any others you’ll find on the platform is that they also feature interactive Matterport 3-D models that let you take a virtual tour of each listing.
Skift spoke to Matterport vice president of business development, Oren J. Tversky, who confirmed the Mountain View, California-based startup is working with Airbnb. He said, “We can’t really talk about the specifics of the relationship at this time, including how it happened, but we can tell you that we are excited to be partnering with Airbnb on the Sonoma Select pilot.”
When we reached out to Airbnb for comment about the new pilot, spokesperson Amanda Smith said, “There is nothing new to share at this time. As you know, Airbnb is constantly testing new ways to create meaningful experiences for our community.”
We also spoke to an Airbnb Superhost (a host with exceptionally high ratings, at least 10 bookings a year, a high response rate, and who rarely cancels on guests) participating in the pilot program who gave us a bit more insight into the program.
This host said she was approached by Airbnb about two months ago to participate in Sonoma Select, which would require her to add Instant Booking and agree to have the 3-D photography from Matterport taken at her property. She said that closer to July, she expects to be working with her respective Airbnb representative to obtain the amenities (local treats, wines, bath products, and guidebook) to be given to guests who book a Sonoma Select listing for July and August.
While she hadn’t previously offered Instant Booking for her cottage, she said that having added it has been a positive experience and that she wants to keep it even after the pilot ends in August. She also said that, even before Sonoma Select, she has been offering home-baked scones and a local bottle of Sonoma wine to her Airbnb guests, so the new amenities won’t be much different from what she’s already used to providing.