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What Hotels Should Know About New Airbnb Rules

Hoteliers can stay ahead of the competition by analyzing Airbnb’s recent efforts to respond to guest gripes.

These days, every hotel owner and manager must think about vacation rental competitors. That’s why it’s a good idea to learn what’s bothering Airbnb guests, and what the company is doing to try to fix these issues.

In November of 2022, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky announced four big changes. “I’ve heard you loud and clear—you feel like prices aren’t transparent and checkout tasks are a pain,” Chesky wrote on Twitter at the time. As a frequent Airbnb guest, an Airbnb host and a former hotel manager, I’ll share some insight into the guest dissatisfaction Airbnb is responding to, why their changes may not help, and how that may be good for hotels.

Here are Airbnb’s four changes, and what hotels should know about them to understand the company’s weaknesses and woo less-than-satisfied guests for whom these changes are too little, too late:

  1. Guests will see the total price before taxes upfront. Guests will now be able to compare apples to apples (kind of) by seeing the total pre-tax price for each listing they’re considering. This will help to avoid sticker shock that comes from booking a place only to be hit with a high total jacked up by fees. “When you turn this on, you’ll see the total price (before taxes) in search results, as well as on the map, price filter, and listing page,” Chesky wrote. “You can also view a full price breakdown with Airbnb’s service fee, discounts, and taxes.” This is a good idea, but guests are still miffed for two reasons. One, this is a feature that must be “turned on” rather than a default. Second, the total “before taxes” isn’t really a total. “To the customer, it is the amount leaving their bank account that matters, not which pockets the money goes into,” guest Vegard Haugstvedt tweeted back to Chesky.
  2. The best properties with the best total prices will appear higher in search. Instead of prioritizing nightly price in its search function, Airbnb will instead emphasize the total price for the stay including fees. “We started as an affordable alternative to hotels, and affordability is especially important today,” Chesky tweeted. “During this difficult economic time, we need to help our hosts provide great value to you.” This strikes me as an inherent conflict for Airbnb: they differentiated their company based on each property being unique, and now they’re struggling to compare and standardize. As a host and guest, I had a strong negative reaction to this new rule. Here’s why: each guest is looking for something different, so Airbnb can’t really decide which properties are “the best” ones for “the best price.” When Airbnb tries to decide for a guest which property is right, a guest may miss discovering a unique gem that would have been perfect— for them. I predict this will water down the Airbnb experience.
  3. New pricing tools will help hosts “stay competitive” with total price. Airbnb will launch “new pricing and discount tools” to help hosts set nightly prices and fees to win bookings. “Hosts told us they’d like our help to better understand the final price guests pay and what price to charge to stay competitive,” Chesky explained. As a host, I imagine these new pricing tools may be helpful to some, and may result in lower prices for guests. But one of Airbnb’s strengths is also one of its weaknesses: there are millions of hosts with varied lifestyles, goals and motivations for hosting. As someone who rents out my primary residence when traveling and as a way to earn extra money, there are many factors that go into my pricing, including whether I feel like cleaning and leaving my house at a particular time. For the Airbnb down the street, one of 20 in my city run by an out-of-state property management business, it’s a different story. For these reasons, I predict guests will continue to be frustrated by Airbnb prices and fees being all over the map.
  4. Hosts won’t be able to require a laundry list of checkout tasks. Hosts may only require “reasonable” checkout tasks that must be shown to the guest before they book. “You shouldn’t have to do unreasonable checkout tasks, such as stripping the beds, doing the laundry, or vacuuming,” Chesky states. “But we think it’s reasonable to turn off the lights, throw food in the trash, and lock the doors—just as you would when leaving your own home.” The problem: with over four million hosts and ten times as many guests, you’ll also have millions of opinions on what constitutes a reasonable or unreasonable chore, which adds up to big headaches for guests and hosts. As a guest, I stress out every time I check out as I complete my list of tasks and hope they meet the host’s satisfaction. As a host, I’d be very dismayed to find a pile of dirty dishes in the sink, a task Chesky didn’t mention, as I assume it falls into a gray area. This is one reason I’ve started to feel a pull back toward hotels: when I’m on vacation, I don’t want to stress about what kind of review I might receive if I miss a task on a checkout list. Which raises another common guest annoyance: reviews. One Twitter user, @airiesummer tweeted to Chesky: “Please add to the reviews policy — a host should not be permitted to post negative reviews of guests for not performing the aforementioned unreasonable checkout ‘procedures’ which are not previously discussed nor posted online at time of booking.”

These new rules are Airbnb’s latest attempt to quell guest dissatisfaction and stay competitive with hotels and other lodging options. They don’t solve all the issues, but they do provide loads of insight for hotels looking to win back unhappy Airbnb guests.