According to Bloomberg, the new premium service is expected to launch as a pilot with a "select group of hosts as soon as this week." The full service could roll out by the end of this year. To qualify for this select status, hosts will need to allow Airbnb inspectors to check and make sure that their rental space meets a specific set of quality standards. If their homes pass muster, they'll reportedly be eligible for a featured section on Airbnb's website and mobile apps.
A source close to Airbnb confirmed the new pilot program and told Engadget that the company's internal work has identified consumers who are slightly older and have never used Airbnb as a significant growth opportunity. They said that internal research shows that business and family travelers want more space, kitchens, yards, laundry and want to stay in unique neighborhoods. Airbnb thinks the key to unlocking this type of audience is to focus on quality.
The hotel industry has already been feeling the pinch from the home-sharing service, and have been promoting local experiences and pursuing legislation that could limit Airbnb's expansion. A new high-end service like this one could attract wealthier, older customers who may prefer to stay in guaranteed nicer accommodations.