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Summary:

Airbnb has rolled out a new neighborhood feature, allowing users to search by location within large cities before booking, giving them greater insight into local areas as the hip travel site grows in popularity. They’re also partnering with local coffee shops to give travelers wifi.

Airbnb, the hip travel site that allows you to book a room in a local apartment — or a local treehouse — is rolling out Airbnb Neighborhoods on Tuesday, a new product that will allow visitors to search by neighborhood within large cities to get the right travel experience they’re looking for.

Initially launching in New York, Paris, London, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Berlin, and Rio de Janeiro, Airbnb Neighborhoods attempts to give visitors a sense of the neighborhood’s personality before booking. The company will give a brief description and photos of the location, as well as available properties in the area.

Company executives said the move was prompted by the realization that travelers in major cities like San Francisco were going to exceptional lengths to research locations and neighborhoods before booking, and by giving those potential customers more information the company would be solving a piece of the puzzle.

“They are overwhelmed with choices, and these choices are vastly different,” said CEO Brian Chesky.

The company is also launching a “Local Lounges” product, which will include local partnerships with coffee shops in city neighborhoods as places for travelers to find free wifi, travel guidebooks, and a friendly face. Starting in San Francisco, the partnerships will take place with Farley’s in Potrero Hill, Radius Café in SoMa, Coffee Bar in the Mission, Cafe Sophie in the Castro, Progressive Grounds in Bernal Heights, Bean There in the Haight, Cafe Abir in NoPa, The Brew in Russian Hill, NOOK in Nob Hill, and Caffé Sapore in North Beach.

Airbnb is a home-share company founded in 2008 that’s exploded onto the travel market, allowing individuals to rent out their homes, couches, vacation rentals, and even tree houses or castles or villas. The company has booked more than 10 million nights so far since its launch and passage through Y Combinator, and it most recently raised $112 million in July 2011, although it has been rumored to be raising more that could value the company at $2.5 billion.

Interestingly, Hipmunk, another San Francisco-based travel company, also rolled out a neighborhood project on Tuesday, giving its users greater context for the areas where they’re booking lodging in major cities. In addition to allowing users to book hotel rooms, Hipmunk also aggregates Airbnb and HomeAway listings, and CEO Adam Goldstein said Airbmb listings have a significant impact on the company’s bottom line.

Airbnb neighborhood feature screenshot

  1. Check out airbnb’s Facebook. Many hosts are very unhappy w/ the new feature and have seen their inquiries and bookings plummet since it’s launch as have I. I live in Southwest DC which is a wonderful neighborhood which fits into many of the categories they allow users to search yet they don’t even have Southwest listed. In fact, Southwest is the closest neighborhood to the National Mall AND most museums are located in the neighborhood so one would think they would definitely cover that area…. Essentially they are taking business away from me rather than promoting my property. I’ve contacted them on this but they just say they’ll “eventually” list my neighborhood meanwhile I’m losing guests. Not cool.

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  2. Update: I just received word from airbnb that they listed my neighborhood! I truly hope other hosts who have had the same concerns have similar luck. Cheers!

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