Last-minute travel heats up with new mobile offering from Airbnb

airbnb last minute

Airbnb is experimenting with a new service that will enable the San Francisco company to enter the very crowded field of booking last-minute accommodations over a phone.

Starting today, Airbnb will allow travelers to book affordable rooms for rent in people’s homes or luxury vacation houses for the same day. The service is launching today in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and Airbnb says more cities will be coming soon.

The new capabilities are very similar to popular mobile applications launched by major travel sites, like Expedia, Priceline and Travelocity, that allow their customers to find a hotel room at the last minute. Another successful app, Hotel Tonight, offers travelers discounts for same-day bookings.

This is a logical move for Airbnb, which recently closed a $450 million round of funding to value the company at $10 billion (which is slightly more than Expedia’s public market cap).

But allowing rooms to be instantly bookable took some extra steps for Airbnb.

Many of the properties available on its site require a pre-approval process, which basically serves as a reservation. Hosts can pre-approve multiple guests for specific days, and the guest who books the offer first will get the listing.

Airbnb said that in order to make listings immediately available, hosts needed to eliminate the pre-approval process. Airbnb said today there are more than 90,000 listings available that can be booked immediately, up from 35,000 at the beginning of the year.

Now, from the company’s mobile app, it will highlight listings that are instantly available within the search page and the discover feed. All users have to do is click on “Need a place for tonight or tomorrow?” to find something nearby.

The new app experience will also be targeting short weekend trips. Dubbed “Weekend Getaway,” Airbnb says the feature will show convenient trips, based on your location. In San Francisco, that would include Wine Country, Lake Tahoe, or destinations with short flights, like Portland or Los Angeles.