In Latest Stunt, Airbnb Lists the ‘Up’ House. It Floats.

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The sleek mansion in the hills overlooking Las Vegas could have been featured on MTV’s “Cribs.” But the highlight of Aubrey Garza’s weekend stay there wasn’t the palatial rooms or the marble fireplace. It was meeting her Airbnb host: Christina Aguilera.

“It just felt like a dream,” Ms. Garza, 26, said. When she was growing up, her bedroom was decorated with posters of the pop star. Ms. Garza had nabbed one of the “once-in-a-lifetime” promotional stays that Airbnb has occasionally listed in recent years.

The popular, if rare, listings have included not only private hangouts with celebrities but stays in a Barbie mansion modeled on the one from the hit movie and a replica of Shrek’s swamp dwelling in the Scottish Highlands.

On Wednesday, Airbnb announced that it was expanding stunt promotions like these under a new permanent category called “Icons,” featuring unusual and ambitious partnerships with brands and celebrities

At a news conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s chief executive, introduced the inaugural slate of Icons listings.

It was headlined by a replica of the floating house from “Up,” the 2009 animated Pixar film, balloons and all. With the help of a giant crane, the house will be suspended high in the air over the New Mexico desert.

Asked whether the house, which does not appear to be connected to the ground by pipes or wiring, had plumbing and electricity, the company said it was “fully functional.” Asked for details, the company said the house ”is connected to a generator and other utilities that will be disconnected and reconnected before and after flying.”

Other listings include a recreation of the mansion from the “X-Men ‘97” cartoon, built to appear two-dimensional.

Only a few people have been able to stay in Airbnb’s previous fantastical listings, but the company said it expected roughly 4,000 customers to book stays in Icons listings in 2024.

Another 10 listings are slated to go up by the end of the year. Booking periods will vary. Dates for the “Up” house are open through mid-September.

With Icons, Airbnb is hoping to capitalize on the success that earlier listings have achieved as promotional tools, ready-made for Instagram selfies and eye-catching headlines, Mr. Chesky said. (Yes, we fell for it.)

He pointed to the success of Airbnb’s collaboration with Mattel last summer, which brought the Malibu DreamHouse to life ahead of the release of the blockbuster “Barbie” film. The buzz interested other brands.

“I think what they’ve seen is that these prior Icons have become cultural sensations, quite literally,” Mr. Chesky said in a phone interview.

The Barbie listing got two to three times as much press coverage than when Airbnb went public in 2020, Mr. Chesky said. The Shrek Swamp listing was viewed on the platform more than 200 million times.

For a sign of what customers can expect, the stay two-night stay that Ms. Garza won by submitting a booking request for the Las Vegas mansion (“Hosted by Christina,” according to the listing) earlier this year offers a clue.

They chatted with Ms. Aguilera over drinks and dinner inside an ornate mansion with glass walls and high ceilings, an infinity pool with chic deck chairs, a lofty balcony with sweeping views of the city, pink accented furnishings fit for a girl’s weekend getaway. (The lodging was free; all Ms. Garza had to pay for was the flight there.)

For Airbnb, the payoff is in maintaining relevance and simultaneously generating a reliable stream of positive attention that can help counter the negative press reports it has faced over hidden costs, hidden cameras and the disruptive effects that short-term rentals can have on communities

“Most people only ever open our app once or twice a year, and we’ve got to battle to make sure they think of us every single year,” Mr. Chesky said in a phone interview. “So this keeps us top of mind and culturally relevant.”

Though Mr. Chesky expects Icons listings to draw thousands of guests, that figure represents a minuscule share of Airbnb’s 150 million users. Still, he said, the category represents the future of Airbnb.

“So this in of itself is not a stand-alone business, but it’s more than just any marketing promotion,” he said. “It’s a gateway to Airbnb becoming more than a place to stay.”

The company hopes the project will help with international markets as well. One of the listings announced Wednesday is a weeklong stay aboard a tour bus with Feid, a Colombian reggaeton artist popular in Latin America. Another includes an overnight stay in India hosted by the Bollywood star Janhvi Kapoor.

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