If you've ever wanted to stay in a castle in France or book an entire island in the Pacific, you might appreciate Airbnb's new luxury travel offering, Airbnb Luxe. The company launched the long-rumored service today with more than 2,000 hand-picked listings, including award-winning homes in New Zealand and South Africa, historic villas in Tuscany and the Jamaican beachfront property where Ian Fleming wrote his iconic spy novels. But a stay in these high-end, Instagramable homes will cost you. Airbnb Luxe is designed for travelers looking to spend at least $1,000 per night.
Each home listed must pass a rigorous evaluation, which considers more than 300 criteria, so you can expect to find elevated design standards, rare and unique features, chef-grade appliances and at least one bathroom per bedroom. You'll also get a dedicated trip designer, who's on hand to make sure your "bespoke experiences" are "truly magical" -- and to arrange childcare and personal trainers. Some homes come with additional services, like chefs, butlers and drivers, and experiences, like medieval farm-to-table dinners. Since fancy places aren't restricted to remote corners of the world, you'll also find a handful of listings in cities like London and Los Angeles. Airbnb Luxe plans to add properties in at least 12 more cities this year.
The new luxury service speaks to how far Airbnb has come from its humble beginning as three friends with air mattresses in a San Francisco apartment. The company has been steadily adding new services -- like adventure holidays and "heritage travel." And as it pushes into the traditional hotel industry, it faces competition from the likes of Marriott, which launched a luxury home and villa rental service earlier this year. Airbnb says its customers are ready for high-end getaways, too. In 2018, the number of bookings for listings worth at least $1,000 per night increased more than 60 percent, and with the luxury travel market estimated at $200 billion, the company sees room for growth.