Airbnb adds instant booking for sponteneous LA and SF trips

The company's app will surface listings without the pre-approval process

Airbnb's app will surface immediate listings that don't require host confirmation.

Airbnb's app will surface immediate listings that don't require host confirmation.

Airbnb has a new service for San Francisco and Los Angeles travelers and residents who enjoy spontaneity, or at least who don't like to plan.

On Tuesday the company announced an update to its mobile app on iOS and Android for last minute booking in those cities. In the search area of the app, hosts and travelers there will find a new feature called "Need a place for tonight or tomorrow." By clicking on it, some number of local listings will appear that are available immediately.

The feature, coming to more cities soon, is aimed to simplify the booking procedure, by doing away with the traditional pre-approval process. Beyond just finding the right place on the site in terms of price and location, booking on Airbnb often requires the exchange of some pleasantries with the host, before he or she will confirm. But with listings that are instantly bookable, hosts can set up their listing to automatically approve guests based on certain parameters, Airbnb said.

"While being instantly bookable isn't a fit for every host, it presents a great opportunity for hosts who don't mind last minute guests," the company said in its announcement.

Apparently there are hosts who like this option -- Airbnb said since the beginning of the year hosts have more than doubled their instant bookable listings from 35,000 at the end of 2013 to over 90,000 currently.

Prices for the feature will range from cheap (at least as cheap as places get in San Francisco and Los Angeles), to outrageously expensive.

The company also announced a new experimental discovery feature called "Weekend getaways," which appears aimed at people who know they want to go somewhere, but aren't quite sure where. That tool is focused more on discovery than instant booking, Airbnb said, featuring destinations that are within reach of LA and SF residents, like Wine Country or Lake Tahoe.

Meanwhile, Airbnb's fundamental service faces rising scrutiny from regulators over its legality. In San Francisco new restrictions could be coming for hosts on when and how they rent out their homes.

The attorney general in New York is also looking at whether Airbnb's service is in violation of a law prohibiting people from renting their homes for fewer than 30 days unless they are present. Perhaps that's why instant booking isn't in New York, yet.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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