Airbnb is hoping to attract more hosts to its platform with several new features, including making it easier to set up and list a space—offering travelers a way to offset some of their travel expenses while they’re away.
At a press event in New York on Wednesday, the company also announced more insurance coverage and protections for homeowners and identified several pain points for hosts that it believes it can alleviate with these added features.
The first new feature, Airbnb Setup, matches new hosts with a Superhost in their area, who is available to them at no charge for any questions or concerns they might have—a kind of mentor. They can even do a live video chat as they complete their new listing, providing advice on what kind of photos to take and post (for instance, whether you need to have a professional service take the photos or can snap them yourself), how to describe the property, and how to set up an availability calendar. The Superhost can also help with a new host’s first reservation, offering suggestions on how to prepare for guests and how to provide unique touches like leaving a handwritten note for guests. Superhosts, who are experienced hosts that have been vetted by Airbnb, can only join the Airbnb Setup program via invitation, and they undergo training and get paid by Airbnb for their time.
“With Airbnb Setup, every new host can get free, one-to-one guidance from a Superhost from their first question through their first reservation,” Airbnb CEO and cofounder Brian Chesky said Wednesday at the unveiling of the new features.
The second new feature is an increase in AirCover for hosts. Aside from upping damage protection from $1 million to $3 million and adding on valuables, the company is also working to verify the identities of all its users.
“From the beginning, we realized that to let someone into your home you have to trust them. And to trust them, you have to know who they are,” says Chesky. “We’re starting today by verifying guests in 35 countries. This covers 90 percent of our reservations.” The company plans to verify remaining users—a process that involves comparing a user’s profile to an official government-issued ID—throughout the world by next spring.
Airbnb is also using new screening technology to block reservations from users who are likely to throw a party in their vacation rental. The company looks for signs like last-minute reservations in the same area that the user already lives in and users under 25 years old. New hosts can also request that their first reservation be from an “experienced guest,” someone who the platform has identified as having completed at least three stays and has a track record of good reviews.
All of these features aim to ease anxiety for new hosts and encourage more people to sign up to rent out their homes.
Frequent traveler, freelance creative, and Airbnb host Bridget Shirvell has been listing her home in Mystic, Connecticut, for four years, and says the money she makes allows her to take longer trips.
“Hosting gives me the ability to travel,” says Shirvell. “I use the money I earn from hosting to pay for any travel I do during the year. While if I didn’t host my home on Airbnb, I would still travel, I wouldn’t be able to go away for as long as I do now.”
Shirvell, who budgets between 5 and 20 percent of her annual Airbnb income to spend on a month away in the summer, a week each in autumn and winter, and various weekend trips, says she appreciates the ease of the calendar function and communication tool, which allows her to get in touch with guests easily. And in addition to the financial aspect, she says, “I enjoy sharing my home and the area with others. I want people to feel like they are stepping inside a good friend’s home. I love the people I’ve communicated with over the years because they stayed in my house. Hosting adds to the overall feeling of my home in such a positive way.”
As for those with a home in a less popular travel destination who might be wondering whether they would get enough interest, Airbnb told AFAR that since 2020, the company has seen an increase in bookings in more rural and less touristy areas. “It’s a trend that’s continued to stay strong,” according to Airbnb.
To demonstrate the value of hosting, Chesky unveiled Wednesday that he has listed a room in his own apartment in San Francisco (he later said on Instagram that the room had booked up and he would be adding more availability in 2023). Chesky, who cofounded the company during the 2008 recession by blowing up a few air mattresses in his apartment, hosting three guests, and calling it an Air Bed and Breakfast, thinks that with inflation and a weaker economy more people could use the extra cash they can make by renting out a room or their entire home on Airbnb. But in order to do so, they need to feel more comfortable becoming hosts.
“It’s really interesting that we started in 2008, during the Great Recession, when people were looking to make some extra money,” says Chesky. “This is very similar to that moment. So, what if we can make it much easier to become a host and allow you more peace of mind? And so that’s what we’re doing.”
Since Chesky is a dog owner, we had to ask the company how it works when hosts have pets. “Guests love pets!” a company spokesperson responded. “That said, it’s best for hosts to mention that there are pets in the home in their listing description, just so that guests are made aware before booking, in case there are allergies and such for them to keep in mind.”
In addition to the new amenities for hosts, Airbnb also announced six new categories on its site:
- Adapted: featuring homes adapted for wheelchair access, with verified step-free paths into the home, bedroom, and bathroom
- Hanoks: includes traditional Korean homes constructed of natural materials
- New: homes added within the past 10 weeks
- Play: a category featuring homes with game rooms, water slides, basketball courts, and other playful elements
- Top of the World: showcases homes that are 10,000 feet above sea level
- Trending: Highly rated homes that get a lot of views