Changes to Airbnb 2018

Today I’m focussing on the recently announced changes to Airbnb, a few days ago C.E.O. Brian Cheskey presented the 2018 changes that will shape the company’s future. If you haven’t seen the video of his presentation, here it is. It’s interesting but also 50 minutes long, so if you’re a little short on time right now, I’ve pulled out the five developments that he presents.

Brian dives straight in and outlines a key issue that they face – Airbnb is still considered an alternative with some people saying ‘na, Airbnb isn’t for me’. They want to change this, they want there to be an Airbnb option for everyone. It’s an ambitious goal.

airbnb for everyone

Airbnb for everyone – starts today

He then goes on to explain their road-map to achieving this, by taking us for a trot through the five changes that they are making to Airbnb this year:

1.  Investing in Our Hosts 

‘we have a partnership with out our hosts, it’s really about building a strong community and recognising our best members’

They’re going to do this by upgrading the benefits they offer to their ‘superhosts’. These are the hosts who are most highly rated by guests, have never cancelled a booking, and take at least 10 per annum. Globally, Airbnb has over 400,000 of them. By the end of 2018, these superhosts will be enjoying an additional 14 benefits to the existing 5, the three examples given are:

  • Custom URL’s for the accommodation’s listing
  • Enhanced visibility and exposure in Airbnb searches
  • Exclusive offers from third party suppliers

A custom URL puts an Airbnb listing on a par with any other specialist listing and directory advertising site, you’re no longer just a number.  It makes it much easier for hosts to share their Airbnb listing information, and for guests to find them.

Enhanced visibility on Airbnb’s searches does two things, firstly it puts better accommodations at the top of the results, offering a higher level of choice to guests. Secondly, it encourages hosts to up their game, because if they don’t they could well disappear, especially in high volume locations.

Exclusive offers on products, in the form of a host store and the first collaborator on board is Nest. This type of owner reward / incentive scheme is already widely used by holiday accommodation directories and agencies.

2. Recognising our best guests

 ‘your passport to a new travel lifestyle’

Debbie and Micheal had retired and been living on Airbnb’s for four and half  years, they were so passionate about their experiences that they joined the team and one of their suggestions stood out – ‘Airbnb should get better the more you use it’. The result is a pilot ‘Superguest’ reward program being launched this spring, which will provide benefits such as services, discounts and perks across the entire travel journey:

  • Homes – hosts care about the quality of guests and would offer discounts & last minute bookings just for Superguests
  • Transport – airport pick-ups, flight upgrades, access to airport lounges
  • Experience – free or exclusive experiences
  • Services – exclusive services

This upgrade will enhance the guest experience, encouraging them to book with Airbnb rather than a competitor – in essence, it’s a loyalty incentive system, but very well thought out and comprehensive. Customers don’t just pick up a few points per shop, or enter a draw to win a free break, they get useful services and offers with real value.

3.  New Categories & Collections

‘Connecting every guest to their perfect home’

Categories

Another key issue they’ve identified is accessibility. There were three accommodation categories, ‘shared room’, ‘private room’, and ‘entire home’, but as Brian rightly says, over the last ten years the volume and choice of homes on Airbnb has far outgrown them. With over 4.5 million listings, it’s difficult for guests to finds the perfect place to stay, especially in cities with thousands of homes. So, four new Categories are being added to further enhance their guests searches:

  • ‘Vacation Home’ – dedicated holiday rental properties, not lived in by the hosts, a bona fide rental business.
  • ‘B&B’ – they used an English country house as an example of the traditional British bed and breakfast offer.
  • ‘Boutique’ – professional hospitality with a unique style or theme.
  • ‘Unique’ – treehouses, domes, boats, airstreams, yurts. There are  over 121,000 of these on Airbnb.
airbnb atlanta treehouse

In their ‘Unique’ Category, this Atlanta Treehouse is the most wish-listed space on Airbnb

More Specifically….

Not content with categorising the accommodation type, they will also be refining the search criteria even deeper, with ‘thousands’ of detailed search options. These will include design styles such as ‘rustic’, architectural features such as ‘a balcony’, facilities such as ‘chef’s kitchen’, or attractions such as ‘near a zoo’.

These changes to Airbnb search facility will bring them into direct competition with companies that specialise in marketing glamping / quirky / unusual accommodations / activity themed breaks. In short, no matter what type of property, structure, feature, attraction or activity a guest is looking for, they will soon be able to track it down, all in one place – on Airbnb.

“we are building one of the world’s largest home databases”

Collections

‘Great homes for every type of trip’

Airbnb collectionc

This development will bring together properties  into several collections that are particularly suited to specific types of trips. Two new Collection – ‘Family’, and ‘Work Travel’ are both already available, with the following Collections being phased in throughout 2018:

‘Dinner Party’, ‘Wedding’, ‘One of a Kind’, ‘Accessible’, ‘ Honeymoon’, ‘Group Getaways’, and ‘Social Stays’, and more Collections will follow. Social Stays are, Brian insists, in Airbnb’s roots, these are the places where the hosts spend time with their guests, show them around and socialise.

To be included in one of these collections the accommodation / home also has to be rated at 4.8 or higher by guests, again, this will have the effect of driving up the standard of Airbnb’s offer to guests.

The concept of collections is already well used in the accommodation hospitality sector, they create a quick and easy way for guests to search for that perfect break.

4.  Airbnb Plus

“All the comforts of home, plus more”

Airbnb Plus

This is Airbnb’s new section exclusively for the creme de la creme of Airbnb’s hosts and accommodations, already available in 13 cities around the world. All the Airbnb Plus homes will fulfill the following criteria:

  • Beautiful homes – personality with thoughtful design.
  • Exceptional hosts – hosts that go the extra, extra mile.
  • Verified for quality – personally checked by a member of the Airbnb team using a 100 point check-list, which includes fully featured bathrooms, clean, comfortable beds, fully equipped kitchens, standardised amenities, fast wifi.
  • Premium Support – For guests, a dedicated team for fast resolutions, and for Hosts, top listings, custom badge, editorial support, design consultations.

The merchandising is tip-top, using quality photography, with the photo’s laid out by floorplan so you get a feel for your way around the house, I used to do this when putting multiple room accommodations online, it just made sense to have them in order (N.B. rumours of my OCD are grossly exaggerated….).

I particularly loved this facility: Guests can also search Airbnb Plus by curated feature lists, such as ‘knock out kitchens’, ‘big back yards’, ‘poolside homes’ ‘peaceful patios’ – the search results default lead photograph then changes to whichever list you chose. Absolutely inspired.

What these changes to Airbnb do is development does is add some of the components of an agency level service to hosts and guests. For hosts, it offers better quality representation, better visibility, focussed marketing, and support. For guests, it offers vetted properties, vetted hosts, stylish accommodation, comfort and consistency. Hosts are required to pay a fee of $149 to apply to be listed in Plus, as a contribution towards the costs of sending our a team member and set-up.

“In our community guest expectations have evolved, meaning their expectations are going up, they are seeking a higher level of comfort and quality”

I’ve added this quote, not only because it is obviously driving a lot of Airbnb’s new developments, but interestingly, it’s a shift that we are also seeing in the UK glamping sector.

5. Airbnb Beyond – The Trip of a Lifetime

“What if we even went beyond?”

Airbnb beyond

Finally, Brian asked how could they could deliver a custom designed trip of a lifetime, and looked to their acquisition of Luxury Retreats last year.

 “what if we brought together high end hospitality with one of the largest travel communities in the world, how could we deliver the trip of a lifetime? It starts with the finest homes, and we have thousands of them”

These changes brings a whole new Airbnb experience, and a product range specialising in:

  • World class hospitality
  • Exceptional homes
  • Unique Experiences 

“homes are just the beginning, to go beyond we must have magical experiences”

At this level, Airbnb will be offering a specialist, high end holiday experience.  Four year ago this autumn, I gave a seminar on ‘the guest experience’, I was only talking about glamping, but it’s now a worldwide trend, because in this sector of the market, travellers are looking for something deeper than just a break. They want meaningful, educating, life enriching experiences.

What do the 2018 changes to Airbnb really mean?

Airbnb’s initial business model was truly unique,  but these new developments take it to the next level, attempting to drive up standards, organise the portfolio into accessible categories, and creating diversity to meet new, global, guest expectations. It’s a well crafted business model development. They’re tackling issues around accommodation standards by curating better quality products that create better experiences for customers. They’re tackling issues around how guests access and search through the volume of homes they have, by making it easier for them to find what they want. And they’re diversifying their offer with Airbnb Plus and Beyond, which will combine the best of both directory listing, and agency service.

They really have done their homework and shaped the data into a groundbreaking, modern travel platform. The way I see it, with these new changes they are aiming to nail every sector and aspect of the modern travel world. Airbnb might still not be for everyone, least of all most operators in the industry, however, with these new changes, it will certainly appeal to more guests.

Photo and image credit: Airbnb

 

Do get in touch if you have any questions about these changes to Airbnb, or indeed, any other online marketing company.