Airbnb has introduced a Solo Traveler in-app feature [Unsplash]

Airbnb rolls out safety product for solo travellers

Worldwide: Airbnb has announced the rollout of a new product aimed at promoting a safe and secure experience for solo travellers.

The launch of Airbnb’s “Solo Traveler” in-app experience has been driven by the “live anywhere” phenomenon, whereby people now have the flexibility to live from anywhere and work remotely at the same time.

With its platform becoming “increasingly integral” to solo travellers, Airbnb says that it recognises the importance of trust and safety of a community that is more prominent than ever as travel opens again after the pandemic. According to Airbnb internal data, 26 per cent of all nights booked in 2021 were by solo travellers, and more than 50 per cent of nights booked for long-term stays during Q1 2022 were for solo travellers.

Specifically designed to better support safe solo travelling on the platform, Solo Traveler is activated as soon as the guest books a private or shared room reservation, which then supplies them with expert tips that they may want to utilise in order to help stay safe while travelling alone.

The newly-announced feature enables the solo traveller to share their reservation itinerary [including the address of the listing, reservation code, check-in / check-out dates] with their most trusted contacts – wherever they are in the world – with one touch in the event of an emergency.

As soon as the reservation is confirmed in the message thread with the host, the traveller will see automated prompts by Airbnb suggesting questions to ask the host about the listing and surrounding neighbourhood. The questions have been curated from specific research carried out with experienced solo travellers who gave details about how they have stayed safe while travelling alone.

Solo Traveler will initially only be available for English speaking guests and focus on bookings by solo travellers to private rooms or shared spaces, but Airbnb says that it plans to roll out the feature to additional countries and languages in the next 12 months, as well as expand it to include entire home listings.

Airbnb will continue to make its Local Emergency Services in-app feature available to all users 24/7, connecting them quickly to local emergency services even if the traveller does not know the local phone number they need off-hand. It is currently active in 70 countries and regions around the world.

Finally, Airbnb will be able to contact someone on the traveller’s behalf as users can add one Emergency Contact to their profile. The feature is designed to make the process more quick and efficient, and can be found in Account Settings in the Personal Info tab on the Airbnb platform.

The product launch builds on Airbnb’s existing in-app products, including the 24-hour Safety Line that is available for all travellers to get access to trained safety agents during active reservations.

It comes in response to a number of high-profile safety and security incidents at Airbnb listings, including fatal shootings, illegal parties, forbidden hidden cameras and recording devices, discrimination [disability, race, sexual orientation], scams and unsafe conditions.

Last July, Airbnb launched a “European first” Trust and Safety Alliance in the UK, a network of expert organisations that will work closely with the home-sharing platform in the UK and provide information and guidance to hosts and the Airbnb community. Founding members of the Trust and Safety Alliance include the National Fire Chief’s Council, Neighbourhood Watch, Crimestoppers, Get Safe Online, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and Race on the Agenda.

The Alliance was set up to engage with Airbnb hosts on a quarterly basis and produce guides and information on a consistent basis.

Airbnb has previously produced guides for hosts in partnership with Crimestoppers on spotting suspicious signs whilst hosting, with the National Fire Chief’s Council on fire safety and Get Safe Online about watching out for online fraud.

Meanwhile, a report published last October, funded by ASIS International and John Jay College in the United States, uncovered over 500 cases of photographic evidence showing unsafe conditions in Airbnbs, ranging from bug, rodent and pest infestations to mould, bodily fluids, rotting food, and other health and safety issues after analysing a dataset of 127,183 tweets containing guest complaints about Airbnb on Twitter between 2015 and 2020.

Airbnb added that it is putting female solo traveller safety at the heart of developing the product, although the in-app experience will be made accessible to guests regardless of their gender identity.

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