You’ve surely seen the TV commercial. Accompanied by “Time Warp” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, family photos flicker by from a glamping getaway in a spaceship. The 30-second ad shines a beam on Airbnb’s OMG! category, a hunting ground for some of the booking platform’s most unusual — and popular — listings.
More than 30,000 unique listings across the world were added to Airbnb in 2021, yet the demand for crazy living spaces is so insatiable that the company wants to foot the bill to build more of them. Airbnb is creating a $10 million OMG! Fund to award 100 entrants with $100,000 so they can turn their wacky ideas into bona fide revenue streams.
From now through July 22, Airbnb is accepting submissions, which will be judged for their originality, feasibility, sustainability and the experience the space will provide guests. The expert panel of judges includes style icon Iris Apfel, architect Koichi Takada, Airbnb Superhost Kristie Wolfe and Airbnb’s VP of Experiential Creative Product Bruce Vaughn.
For winning entrants, there are only two requirements. Upon completion of their projects, fund recipients must rent the new space on Airbnb and cannot list the property on competing short-term rental platforms for a year.
Airbnb says the typical host in the U.S. earned over $13,800 in 2021, an 85% increase over 2019. Nights booked at unique OMG!-worthy properties increased by over 49% over the same period.
Many an Airbnb host has discovered that a creative conversion — spaceship, railway car, grain silo, covered wagon, glass bubble — can turn into a humming side business. The crazier the idea, the deeper the commitment to the theme, the better.
Renting for $289 a night in Joshua Tree, California, the spaceship mini home goes all in on the UFO vibe, complete with ladder and pop-up bubble window. “Totally unique,” writes on reviewer. “Place is out of this world,” says another.
No idea is too quirky for Airbnb entrepreneurs. Consider the surprising success of Kristie Wolfe, who spent $32,000 transforming a six-ton spud prop salvaged from the Idaho Potato Commission into Boise’s Big Idaho Potato Hotel, one of Airbnb’s most famous listings. Since 2019, Wolfe has earned over $208,000, which allowed her to bootstrap her way to four more Airbnb properties in the OMG! category.
There are plenty of examples of successful Airbnb entrepreneurs from around the world. Keith and Jen, a New Zealand couple, spent $14,000 converting an old grain silo into a Yellow Submarine. The extra income is helping them retire comfortably. In Portugal, Ricardo spent more than $36,000 turning a retro double-decker bus into a superbly outfitted bi-level mini home. His listing on Airbnb has been so successful that he’s bought a second bus.
Last month, Airbnb unveiled what it called “the biggest change to Airbnb in a decade.” The platform’s search tool now encourages travelers to explore by category, where listings are grouped by a particular feature (grand piano, chef’s kitchen, amazing view) or interest (golfing, camping, skiing, surfing, history).
Without a doubt, the biggest surprises are saved for the OMG! category, where intrepid travelers can unearth one-of-a-kind finds like Wolfe’s six-ton potato.