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Want to spend the night in a Paris museum or a house owned by Prince? Airbnb plans to list them

DAVID KOENIG
May 01, 2024

In a mad mix of game-show glitter and marketing flash, Airbnb is offering customers a chance to spend a night in a Paris museum, stay in houses mocked up to look like movie settings, or sleep surrounded by eight Ferrari racing cars.

Those and other chimerical listings are part of a splashy new campaign by the short-term rental giant, which wants to portray itself as a company that sells experiences and not just alternatives to staying in a hotel.

CEO Brian Chesky announced the 11 temporary listings -- Airbnb is calling them "icons" -- at an event Wednesday in Los Angeles.

The San Francisco company hit upon the idea for the publicity caper after seeing the response to a Barbie-themed house in Malibu, California, it listed last year in conjunction with a hit movie about the Mattel fashion doll. The formula is the same: link a promotion to a pop-culture product, celebrity or event.

And don't be boring.

"We're not historically known for making anything. We're a platform," Chesky said in an interview. "I think it's really great to show what it looks like when suddenly you can step into our vision and our imagination. I think it's going to keep Airbnb top of mind."

Unlike the rental platform's typical listed properties, Airbnb is practically giving away its "icons." Chesky said the company will invite people to fill out a profile and explain why they want one of the listings, and Airbnb will pick about 4,000 winners over the course of the year. He said winners will be able to book the featured properties or events for free or at prices under $100.

One of the exotic opportunities is an overnight stay at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris. Chesky said Airbnb recruited Mathieu Lehanneur -- he designed the torch for this summer's Paris Olympics -- to convert the clock room atop the museum into a bedroom.

"By the way, the torch is in the bedroom with you," Chesky said. "You get the entire museum all to yourself. This is literally night at the museum. It gets even better because you step outside the bedroom on to the terrace, you have the single best seat in the house for the opening ceremony" of the Olympics, which will take place on the River Seine.

For those preferring a U.S. setting, Airbnb is listing a house in New Mexico detailed to look like the one from the 2009 Pixar-Disney animated film, "Up." Chesky said Airbnb paid to build the house from scratch and attach 8,000 balloons to mimic the helium-filled ones the central character in the movie uses to make the house fly.

The Airbnb version won't fly, but Chesky said guests will be able to watch a crane lift the New Mexico house 50 feet off the ground.

"I think we maybe won't have them inside the house when we lift it, just for safety reasons," he said.

Some of the listings will be one-time events, including the sleepover at the the Ferrari Museum in Maranello, Italy, a living room performance by rapper Doja Cat, and an evening with comedian Kevin Hart in his members-only lounge. The "Up" house and a mansion in New York made to look like the one in "X-Men" Marvel comics will be available for three or four months. A Minneapolis house owned by Prince that was featured in the film "Purple Rain" will be available for a year, according to Airbnb.

The company won't say how much it spent to acquire rights, dress up the properties, and pay the celebrities involved. Airbnb made a $4.8 billion profit last year and ended 2023 with nearly $6.9 billion in cash. Enough to repeat the "icons" campaign.

"These 11 are the beginning," Chesky said. "We have a lot more under development."

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