Airbnb to call out ‘premium’ listings

— Airbnb is quietly launching a quality-control program to attract customers tepid about staying in stranger’s homes.

The company seeks to label some of the homes and apartments listed on the platform as “premium” rentals. These properties, equipped with luxury furniture, plush towels and other amenities, will be featured in a separate section of Airbnb’s site.

The section is expected to launch in late 2017, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The short-term rental startup, valued at $31 billion, aims to win over travelers who prefer the comfort of luxury accommodations or hotels.

Airbnb has already reached out to some hosts to the begin assessment. Only those who make the cut will be listed on the new section.

The process will be both subjective and objective, the source said. The team will access the quality of furniture, Wi-Fi, television, mattress, linens, towels and toiletries. Other sought after amenities include a stocked fridge, with basics like water, and a clutter-free sink, according to the source.

The company is leveraging its recent acquisition of Luxury Retreats, which it purchased in February for an undisclosed sum. Luxury Retreats has experience handpicking and inspecting villas and other rentals, as well as offering 24/7 concierge services to guests.

Troy Flanagan, vice president of state & local government affairs for the American Hotel & Lodging Association, says the firm doesn’t feel threatened by Airbnb’s new initiative.

“We’re not concerned about competition. We’re concerned about following the law,” he told CNN Tech in a statement. “Competition is the hallmark of the hospitality industry.”

The hotel industry has fiercely opposed Airbnb’s business, seeking to debunk its claims that its business is good for helping those earn additional income. It’s also raised regulatory concerns about the company.

The premium program, first reported by Bloomberg on Wednesday, is tentatively called Select — a name expected to change. The company will take the same cut from premium listings as it does from regular listings on its platform.

Airbnb spokesman Nick Papas said the company is “continually experimenting.” “I don’t have any more to share on the new things we’re test driving but we have a few exciting projects in the works,” he said.

Airbnb is separately looking into evaluating listings for handicap accessibility so it can better call them out on the site, the source added.