Earlier this month, Brian Chesky, the cofounder and CEO of Airbnb, began a press conference in New York City by acknowledging real tweets from unhappy customers complaining about excessive cleaning fees, chores, hidden charges, and more.
“We’ve listened,” Chesky said. “We’ve improved our service by starting with a design-driven approach.” This design-driven approach began by looking at Airbnb’s blueprint, mapping out the entire service end to end for both guests and hosts, and going through millions of customer service tickets and thousands of social media posts to improve the process.
With an expected 300 million guest arrivals in 2023, Airbnb knows that it has to fix major issues about its vacation rental platform before it moves forward. Chesky hinted that Airbnb is planning on launching “new crazy stuff” in 2024, but he acknowledged that the influx of complaints on social media made him realize that, “We got to get our house in order and fix our core service . . . [and] shift the balance back to people on Airbnb.”
The number one complaint was not having transparent pricing, followed by onerous checkout chores some hosts require of guests. The result is 50 new features and upgrades for guests and hosts.
Here are just a few of what Chesky called “the most extensive set of improvements we have ever made.”
1. Price transparency is now part of search
Users can now toggle a new total price feature on and off when they’re searching. When it’s off, they’ll see how search results appeared before with just the nightly rate without the cleaning fee and Airbnb service fee included. When it’s toggled on, the total price including all fees before taxes will appear in search results. (The price including taxes will appear on the checkout page, like any other online shopping experience.)
2. Checkout improvements
“We heard checking out can be kind of a pain,” Chesky said regarding those onerous chores Airbnb got so many complaints about (mowing lawns, 10-step cleaning lists, $150 fees for condiments left in the fridge, etc.). To add transparency to this process, hosts can list their checkout requirements in their listings under House Rules, so guests know what to expect before booking. The day before a guest checks out, they’ll get a reminder with a link to the instructions for what is expected of them before they leave.
If guests feel these chores are unreasonable, they can now also select “excessive checkout tasks” within the rating tool after their stay is complete. Hosts who get repeated low ratings for these types of chores will be removed by Airbnb.
3. Two-minute response time from customer service while traveling
For customers who run into problems during a trip, Airbnb is making it a goal to answer 90 percent of calls to its 24/7 support team within a two-minute window. To find the number for this, go to trips tab, then click tab help, and you can call or message Airbnb about any urgent issues—like not being able to get into your listing—during your trip.
4. Airbnb Rooms
Airbnb started in 2007, when Chesky and his cofounder Joe Gebbia welcomed three guests to stay with them at their San Francisco apartment. To get back to the roots of the company—staying with a host and experiencing a city like a local, with a local—Airbnb just launched a new curated category of private rooms within a host’s home. (You can find this on its homepage alongside other categories it introduced last year like Tiny Homes, Castles, and OMG!)
“With Airbnb Rooms we’re getting back to the idea that started it all,” Chesky said. “People are back at the center of Airbnb.” In addition to reconnecting with people after years of pandemic-induced self-isolation, the other perk of Airbnb Rooms is that they’re very affordable (the average nightly rate of a private room on Airbnb is just $67).
To prove his dedication to refocusing the company on this core concept, Chesky once again listed a room in his San Francisco home on the platform (something he first did last fall to demonstrate the ease and value of listing a private room).
5. Safety features and new “Host Passports”
For more people to stay in Airbnb Rooms, Chesky said he knows “they need to be comfortable staying with hosts.” There are existing security measures like verifying identities of every single guest and host on Airbnb via government ID and a 24/7 safety line. When setting up listings, hosts will also be asked if they have a lock on the private room door—if they don’t, it will be mentioned in the listing.
In addition to a host’s ratings, superhost status, and information on how long they’ve been hosting, a new Host Passport feature offers a more extensive bio to help potential guests get a better idea if they’ll be compatible with hosts during their stays. In addition to basic information like what decade they were born in, if they have pets, and what languages they speak, the Host Passport also includes fun details like their favorite song in high school and what they’d call their biography if they had one.
6. Long-term stays
To adapt to a new world where many people aren’t attached to offices, Airbnb is also expanding beyond short-term rentals to focus on stays of a month or longer. (Chesky pointed out that at least a fifth of Airbnb’s business is longer than a month now.) Users can find a new tab called “months,” where they can search for listings available from one month up to a year. They can now pay by month in installments and directly via a bank account (which removes credit card processing fees). In the fourth month, Airbnb will also “significantly lower” its guest service fees (but didn’t mention by how much exactly).
7. New Wishlist features
Airbnb completely redesigned Wishlists—its feature that lets users curate their own lists of homes for future trips—to have a simpler interface. In addition to seeing larger images of homes they’ve saved, users can also now add notes to listings within their wish list to add standout details, “hopefully making it easier to compare listings,” Chesky said.
8. Multiple upgrades for hosts
Hosts can now select checkout tasks from a premade list of (reasonable) tasks within the app so it’s easier for hosts to give guests checkout instructions. To help set competitive prices, hosts can now see what guests are paying at similar nearby listings. Airbnb says this new tool will also show hosts their total nightly price including fees so they know what guests are paying (which apparently didn’t happen before until the listing was live).