Last year, Airbnb launched a new identity and proposition heartland around ‘belong[ing] anywhere’. A gorgeous idea centred on a universal human truth, it speaks to the platform’s ability to connect guests with homes (and hosts), anywhere around the globe. When you’re in a city that you don’t know, there’s a home to go back to, and intimate insight into the locality to be found among the personal touches that adorn it, from the people who know it best.
It is because the heartland of Airbnb is so clearly defined (and deeply resonant) that the brand’s newest listing, The Saulire in Courchevel, jars. An exclusive one room cable car suspended high above the Alps, it offers a luxurious experience and one of a kind view of the mountains. An incredibly unique idea, of course, but does it really stay true to the idea of belonging, in the grounded, intimate way Airbnb have defined it? We would argue that it starts to complicate matters.
If Airbnb is about belonging and community, this cable car is about the experiential and a singular experience at that. It’s just you, your partner and a lot of snow. Further, it’s no-one’s home already and so there are no personal knick knacks for guests to gain hints and tips on, say, the best bars to hit in town. Sure, it’s a competition so no money changes hands, but the crux is that it’s a wholly invented space with emphasis on the experience (and luxury therein), not the belonging.
It’s not that Airbnb can’t do this, or that such a listing appears completely at odds with the brand. Of course they can, and of course it doesn’t. It’s an extremely cool idea and an experience for which most of us would sell an undisclosed body part or family member. But it might be that the brand needs to widen its definition of what ‘belonging’ means in order to couch this extension in a logic that doesn’t break with the overall narrative. Or, perhaps even better, they could look to develop a sub-brand that deals with experiential, one-of-a-kind listings in places previously unimagined, allowing it to borrow from the overarching Airbnb brand, but interpret the idea of belonging in an alternative way and signal that, here kids, they’re doing something slightly different.