[Credit: Airbnb]

Airbnb debuts Rooms category in 2023 Summer Release upgrades

US: As part of its 2023 Summer Release, Airbnb has announced the debut of a new Airbnb Rooms category, promising to be an “all-new take on the original Airbnb”, as well as 50+ new features and upgrades for both hosts and guests that will begin rolling out next week.

In anticipation for more than 300 million expected guest arrivals on Airbnb this year, the company is calling the seasonal release its “most extensive set of improvements ever” that address feedback from guests and hosts across the end-to-end browsing and booking experience.

Its headline launch is a new Airbnb Rooms category, which will feature more than one million listings, redesigned filters and added privacy features. Each Airbnb ‘Room’ will feature a ‘Host Passport’, allowing guests to get to know their host/s before they stay, giving them added peace of mind about who they are staying with.

Airbnb says that the category is a nod back to the company’s original idea of allowing someone to stay in someone else’s home at an affordable rate and enable them to meet someone new and experience a city like a local. The company has emphasised how people are seeking to travel more economically during the cost of living crisis yet still connect with people and have authentic experiences, especially after the isolation of lockdowns during the pandemic.

It is also an acknowledgement by Airbnb that its host and guests are seeking more reassurance about safety provisions during the booking experience and in listings themselves, following a number of high-profile incidents including poisonings, shootings, hidden cameras and findings around discrimination.

It also comes three months after Airbnb revealed that it would soon require verification from a valid government-issued ID or a legal address at the time of reservation. The move would bring Airbnb closer to the sort of verification seen in traditional hotels, where front desk staff can request a form of identification from a guest prior to check-in.

Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO of Airbnb, said: “With Airbnb Rooms, we’re getting back to the idea that started it all – back to our founding ethos of sharing. Airbnb Rooms are often more affordable than hotels, and they’re the most authentic way to experience a city. This is the soul of Airbnb.”

Airbnb Rooms will include access to shared spaces, including the kitchen, living room or back yard / garden, as well as:

  • Host Passports will enable guests to know their host before booking their stay. Clicking on the Host Passport will allow the user to view a larger photo and details that the host has shared on the platform, including the school they went to, their job, fun facts, hobbies and more.
  • Redesigned filters that make it easier for users to switch seamlessly between Airbnb Rooms, entire homes and all other categories, giving them an overview of the average price for each type of property, supported by an enhanced price filter.
  • New privacy features will display clearly whether shared spaces e.g. bedrooms / bathrooms have a lock or are shared or private.

In total, Airbnb has announced more than 50 new features and upgrades, including 25 improvements for hosts, based on feedback from its community.

CEO Brian Chesky said that the company had “listened” to the feedback that the company had received, adding that Airbnb’s design-driven approach with features and upgrades were “just the beginning”.

Some of the headline features and upgrades include:

  • Total price display allows guests to view the total price with fees, before taxes, across the entire app including in search results, price filter, maps and listing pages.
  • Transparent checkout instructions are to be displayed on the listing page before booking, plus they will also receive a reminder before they leave the home. During the review process, guests will be asked to discuss any excessive requests and listings with consistently low ratings will be removed from the platform entirely.
  • Improved maps with faster performance, persistent pins when zooming and panning, and more search results will be incorporated.
  • Redesigned wishlists will include a redesigned interface, one-tap saving, and an improved calendar that shows availability of wishlisted homes.
  • For guests staying for more than three months, Airbnb wants to facilitate simpler and more affordable monthly stays by reducing the guest service fee after the third month. Guests in the United States will be able to save for one-month-plus stays when paying via their linked bank account, while a new Months tab feature will make it easier to type in a range from one to 12 months. Chesky previously revealed last year that longer stays [lasting more than a month] were the fastest-growing segment on Airbnb following the redesigning of the platform in Airbnb’s 2022 Summer Release that improved lodging search options.
  • Airbnb is aiming to answer 90 per cent of calls in English in two minutes or less through a dedicated 24/7 support team providing priority customer service on a trip.
  • Airbnb has partnered with Swedish fintech company Klarna to allow guests to pay over time. Guests in the United States and Canada will be able to apply for stays in four interest-free instalments over six weeks, and for bookings costing more than $500 in the United States, guests will be able to apply to pay monthly. Airbnb added that more countries would be added throughout the year.
  • Instant rebooking credit so if a host cancels within 30 days of arrival, the majority of guests will receive an instant credit that can be used to rebook another stay immediately.

In its most recent Winter Release in November, Airbnb rolled out a host of services to address common host pain points, including the introduction of Airbnb Setup, which allows prospective hosts to be asked where they are from and what type of home they want to list, before they are matched with a local Superhost who can then answer further questions around the onboarding process, how to boost their listing, secure higher numbers of bookings and more. The feature is designed to make it easier to become a host, and for Airbnb to attract new hosts.

At March’s Skift Future of Lodging Forum in London, Catherine Powell, the first-ever global head of hosting at Airbnb, spoke about how Airbnb was enhancing safety and security on the platform, prioritising sustainable and responsible tourism, and how AI and machine learning will create a more personalised booking search experience from now on.

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