Airbnb comes to your hood

By Richard Nieva , written on November 13, 2012

From The News Desk

Source: Flickr

Airbnb, the online vacation rental sharing service, invited tech reporters to an obscure converted gallery in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco this morning, presumably to prove a point. Far away from the bustle of Union Square or the hip irony of the Mission, the Dogpatch is a quiet district way south of South of Market.

The ethos Airbnb is trying to convey with two new product announcements, Neighborhoods and Local Lounge, is: Hyperlocal. So hyperlocal, in fact, that this native Bay Area reporter had only been to this part of town once before.

Airbnb Neighborhoods lets users search for a place to stay by, well, neighborhood. Visitors to the site can view a profile on 300 neighborhoods across seven international cities, including San Francisco, London, and Rio. Users can then narrow in on things like shopping, nightlife, and transportation, and are then brought to different neighborhood portals that fit those criteria. (Cool feature: each neighborhood has a public transportation rating like “easy” or “difficult.”)

To build the product, Airbnb acquired Nabewise in July and enlisted the help of founder Ann Montgomery. She tailored her existing product to fit with Airbnb’s vision. “It made a lot of sense,” she told me, referring to her decision to join Airbnb. Her business was only national, and she wanted to tackle the international element. “It was exciting to see how we could bring these cities to life,” she said.

Local Lounge turns a few neighborhood favorites into information kiosks for tourists. How it works: A traveller sees a “Local Lounge” blue icon on the door of a café and, she can ask the owner for a free Airbnb-produced travel guide. So far, they have 10 partner cafes in San Francisco, including Been There in Lower Haight and Nook in Nob Hill.

The two new features are another example of Web companies zeroing in on the nuances of travel. Vayable, another startup, let’s users search cities by what types of experiences they want to have. Airbnb says about 1,000 users a week stay in the Mission district of San Francisco, so perhaps this will give them some new ideas.

[Image Credit: Orin Zebest on Flickr]