US: Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky has said that his company is leading a “travel revolution” after announcing an additional 50+ service upgrades as part of its Winter Release.
It follows Airbnb’s announcements in May that it was releasing its “most comprehensive update ever”, including 103 changes and updates to be implemented on the platform. The updates placed a particular emphasis on flexibility, improving guest experience, making it easier for hosts to sign up, and providing “world class” support for its global host and member community.
The latest upgrades, designed to make it easier to host and support the changing needs of travellers, are headlined by “top-to-bottom” protection AirCover, Translation Engine and Accessibility Review.
Airbnb co-founder and CEO, Brian Chesky, said: “For Airbnb, 2021 has been a year of relentless innovation to refine our core service. With the Airbnb 2021 Winter Release, we’ve delivered more than 150 upgrades and innovations this year.
“Our design-driven approach means that we’re constantly improving our service to adapt to this changing world. For the first time ever, millions of people can now travel anytime, anywhere, for any length, and even live anywhere on Airbnb.
“This is a travel revolution,” he added.
Chesky’s wording of a travel “revolution” is underpinned by the newfound ability to work from any home as technological advancements such as Zoom facilitate more flexible and remote working patterns. According to Airbnb, travellers are taking more frequent trips, longer trips, travelling to more locations and living in different places, leading one-month-plus stays to become the fastest-growing category on its platform.
Among Airbnb’s headline service upgrades are:
AirCover is designed to offer increased reassurance to Airbnb’s “four million” hosts, providing “top-to-bottom” protection for hosts with $1 million in damage protection and $1 million in liability coverage. Under the free update, hosts will also receive income loss protection, pet damage protection, deep cleaning protection, a 14-day filing window, quicker reimbursements and a faster track for Superhosts.
- Translation Engine
Airbnb’s Translation Engine, which will be available in more than 60 languages, uses millions of internal data points to automatically translate listing descriptions and reviews, as well as to improve existing translations on listings. The company states that the Engine improves the quality of more than 99 per cent of listings, coinciding with the return to more international travel as border restrictions continue to ease in parts of the world.
- Accessibility Review
Airbnb has also unveiled its Accessibility Review to assess the accuracy of accessibility features in its homes. Hosts will submit photos of these features around their homes so that they can be manually reviewed by a specialist team of agents at Airbnb, who are said to have already confirmed the accuracy of 100,000 accessibility features in 25,000 homes worldwide.
Though Airbnb says that its members must treat all fellow members of the community with respect and without judgement or bias, regardless of disability, race, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or age, a study emerged in the United States last year that appeared to illustrate how some hosts were discriminating against guests with disabilities.
- Verified wifi
With fast and reliable wifi now more critical and desired than ever before due to our new working lives, the home-sharing platform has created a speed test tool that verifies the speed of the wifi in a listing. Hosts can test their own wifi speeds themselves through the Airbnb app, while guests have reportedly used the new filter more than 288 million times this year.
- I’m [even more] Flexible
Airbnb is extending the I’m Flexible program which launched earlier this year and which allows users to search for more unique homes up to 12 months [rather than six previously] in advance of their stay. Based on the uptake of the feature, I’m Flexible will now include four new categories of unique stays: off the grid, ski-in / ski-out, luxe, and offbeat homes.
- Smarter Trips tab
The redesigned Trips tab is now set up to house a traveller’s most essential travel information in one place, ranging from a countdown to their arrival, check-in details, current and upcoming reservations, and personalised Experiences suggestions.
- Ask a Superhost Expansion
Ask a Superhost will connect new hosts with more experienced Superhosts that can provide one-to-one advice, such as tips for completing a listing page and supporting them through their first booking. The feature has been expanded to cover more than 30 languages in 196 countries, and prospective hosts can be matched up with Superhosts based on their location, language and listing.
While AirCover, Accessibility Review, Verified wifi, I’m [even more] Flexible, and Ask a Superhost are all now available to Airbnb users, the Translation Engine and Smarter Trips tab are both set to launch by the end of the year.
The Winter Release comes at a time when Airbnb is celebrating reporting its “strongest quarter ever” since going public via its IPO last December, having recorded the highest revenue and net income in its history.
The company believes that this is a sign of the acceleration of the rebound of travel, spurred on by the vaccine rollout and easing of travel restrictions, as well as an increase in the number of active listings on the platform.