Airbnb Answers: Guest profile photos

Administrator

Update: January, 2019

 

A few months ago, we told you about some changes Airbnb was making to the way guest profile photos are displayed. You can read the original post, below.

 

Now that those changes are being introduced gradually, we want to make sure you have all the information you need. Here’s a recap of what will be changing, along with some tips.

 

 

New photo process

Moving forward, rather than displaying a potential guest’s profile photo before the booking is accepted, you’ll receive a guest’s photo after you’ve accepted the booking request. If you have Instant Book turned on, you won’t notice a change to the booking process.

 

Airbnb does not require guests to have profile photos. Although most guests provide a photo, some have told us they don’t want to share a picture of themselves when booking, and we listened.

 

At the same time, many of you told us that you value guest profile photos, and we listened to you, too. That’s why we’ve introduced a new option for hosts to be able to customize their own booking requirements.

 

New host control

You now have the option to require that your guests provide a profile photo. Again, the photo will be visible to you only after you accept the booking request. If you’d like to require your guests to provide a profile photo, you’ll need to turn on the control option in your settings for each of your listings, either on mobile or on web. Specifically:

 

On mobile:

  1. Go to the listing you’d like to require profile photos for
  2. Tap Booking settings
  3. Tap Guest requirements
  4. Look for the Profile photo section and tap Edit
  5. Tap Require a profile photo
  6. Tap Save


On web:

  1. From your host dashboard, click Listings
  2. Click Booking settings
  3. Next to Guest requirements, click Edit
  4. Check the box next to Profile photo
  5. Click Save

 

If you take this step and a potential guest doesn’t already have a profile photo, they’ll be prompted to upload one before they can request to book your space. A guest’s profile photo will not be available to you until after you accept the booking request. If the guest doesn’t want to provide a photo, then they won’t be able to book your space. 

 

Additional support

If you choose to require that your guests have a profile photo and one of your potential guests uploads an image that doesn’t show their face—a photo of a sunset or their dog, for instance—then you can call Airbnb’s Community Support. They’ll work with you to address the issue, and if you feel uncomfortable hosting someone without a photo that shows their face, you can request to cancel the reservation penalty-free.

 

As a reminder, Airbnb’s nondiscrimination policy prohibits hosts from making booking decisions or canceling reservations based on race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status. 

 

As an extra step, as always, you can require guests to provide a government ID to Airbnb in order to be able to book your space. You can read more about that process here.

 

Why these changes are important

We talked with lots of hosts and guests about profile photos, and we think these changes satisfy the core concerns and feedback we heard. We’ll be paying close attention to how these changes to profile photos affect our community, and will continue working to improve and simplify the process to ensure you feel comfortable hosting. We hope you’ll share your feedback with us so we can continue to build a community where everyone can belong. Thank you for hosting.

 

 

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October, 2018

 

You've been asking a lot about guest profile photos, and Airbnb has been working on new policies to address your concerns. Here is an update from Airbnb:

 

Today, we’re announcing some changes we will be making to the way we display guest profile photos.

 

Moving forward, rather than displaying a potential guest’s profile photo before the booking is accepted, hosts will receive a guest’s photo in the booking process only after they’ve accepted the booking request. Airbnb does not require all guests to provide a photo. Instead, we’ll be giving hosts the option to ask their guests to provide a profile photo, which will only be presented to hosts after they accept the booking. We have discussed some of this work in the past and we want you to know more about the changes we will be making in the coming months.

 

We have participated in a number of conversations with hosts and guests regarding this topic. We have listened to our community, and while most guests provide a photo, some guests told us they don’t want to share a picture of themselves when booking. We also recognize that concerns have been raised about the potential for photos to be misused in a way that violates our nondiscrimination policy.

 

At the same time, hosts have told us that they value profile photos because they can help hosts and guests get to know one another before a trip begins and help hosts recognize guests when they check in. Additionally, we’ve seen how photos can be a useful tool for enhancing trust and promoting community.

 

We want to balance these concerns. Airbnb does not require guests to provide a profile photo when booking a listing and, as we discussed earlier this summer with our hosts, we will be implementing a series of changes in the months ahead:

 

  • If a guest chooses to provide a profile photo, that profile photo won’t be displayed to the host as part of the booking process until after the booking is confirmed.
  • Because some hosts value profile photos and want to be able to know who they can expect at their front door, we will give hosts the option to ask that guests provide a profile photo prior to booking, which will only be presented to the host after the host accepts the booking request. This new option comes with important safeguards that are designed to ensure our community is fair and open to everyone:
    • Hosts must turn on this feature for each of their listings proactively, before they receive a reservation request.
    • If a host asks for a profile photo, we’ll prompt guests to upload one to their Airbnb profile before they can request to book that host’s particular listing; however, the photo will not be presented to the host until after the booking is confirmed.

 

If a host cancels a reservation after they see a guest’s photo, the guest will have an easy way to contact Airbnb and report any concerns about potential discrimination by the host in violation of our nondiscrimination policy and Community Commitment. If any guest believes he or she has been discriminated against and notifies our team, we’ll immediately help them book an alternative listing consistent with our Open Doors Policy, investigate the report, and take appropriate action. Any host who violates our nondiscrimination policy may be permanently banned from using Airbnb.

 

This announcement follows the commitment we made in 2016 to evaluate how we display guest profile photos in the booking process. As we implement these changes in the coming months, we hope you’ll share your feedback with us so we can continue to make thoughtful changes that make the Airbnb community a place where everyone can belong.

 

Tags (1)
1,161 Replies
Christine in
Glenbrook, Australia
Level 10

Hi all, thankyou admin for this update regarding this proposal. 

I recognise this as an initiative that had its origins in concerns over discrimination.  Notably it is stated that if a host cancels after seeing a profile picture, and this triggers a concern that a person may sense they have been wrongly and unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of appearance, guests will be made aware that they can report their concern and have it investigated and acted on. 

Profile photos providing a tool to facilitate discrimination and being linked to concerns that they will enable and increase discrimination are in my view somewhat overblown and certainly Airbnb's energy and engineering talent is being misdirected in attempting to implement this potential solution to a percieved problem. After all there currently are immediate and sound penalties for cancellations and also there are disincentives to repeatedly declining booking requests, regardless of whether the refusal was soundly or unreasonably made. The pressure and reward is in consistently accepting bookings. 

This two stage opt-out is only adding complexity to the guest sign up and account details. On a number of occasions I have had guests almost walk away from proceeding with booking at my listing and giving up on Airbnb travel because they found the sign up confusing. Thankfully I was able to support them through to a successful complete account and a successful booking for me, and the hope is that they will go on to continue travelling with other Airbnb hosts in future. 

The much bigger concern with profile photos is safety and privacy on the internet and minimising the threat of privacy and security breaches. Published photos are easily copied and misused. That's the biggest risk, threat and offence that can occur to either guests and hosts. 

Seeing who you are "talking" to is a normal human desire and revealing yourself is good manners. The only 2 people who need to see each other are guest and hosts. So instead of the current proposal why not just give guests and hosts the opportunity to upload a primary photo for web display on the public profile and guest review proviles etc, and a secondary photo which is released to the host or guest when an enquiry or booking is being made or accepted.

There are lots of reasons why a host who needs to maintain privacy for reasons of personal protection or security, should be confident knowing that they cannot be searched out via a publicly available picture. 

So public photos for everyone, make your own choice of photo, and then a privately auto exchanged passport style portrait photo when transacting.

I typed this on my phone.

Please excuse typing errors and any lack of punctuation.

Best regards. Christine 

Ava in
Eureka, CA
Level 10

When does this change take effect?

Christine in
Glenbrook, Australia
Level 10

"As we implement these changes over the coming months" 

At this time no precise date has been given for the cutover to this proposal regarding profile pictures.

Over the coming months...

In regards to my earlier post re public photos; I am suggesting that public photos can be anything reasonable to represent the account.

Facial images can be secondary photos, which are only exchanged between hosts and guests. The reveal can be automated. Maybe the photo reveal can be triggered after 48 hrs when the booking is fully confirmed. 

Regards Christine 

 

Branka & Silvia in
Zagreb, Croatia
Level 10

So, basicly nothing will change. Even now every host can ask his guest to upload his profile photo.

Now you just added another way out for guests . I see it coming... guest books and upload his picture, during the conversation host becomes unconfortable with this guest for whatever reason and wants to cancel. Guest complains it's discrimination based on his profile picture. Host is punished.

 

I recently read a story here on CC  about a guests who booked and arrived. Host was surprised because profile photo showed caucasion female, reviews were about a male and the couple who arrived were african american. Host become suspicious and as turned out this female account was hacked so the host kicked the guests out.

If their profile didn't have a profile picture host wouldn't suspect anything.

 

In the meantime we are waiting for our guests in front of the building on the busy street and have no idea how they look  like. Last month I've seen a couple of strangers looking arround and asked them if they are looking for Airbnb. They smiled and said Yes. I said "Great, I am Branka, I am your Airbnb host, follow me.." I took them to my apartment and they looked arround and said "... but this is not what we have booked !". It turned out they booked another apartment in the same building, but not mine. How could I possibly know, my guest's profile photo was a flower !

 

There are at least 15 rooms and apartments in just 4 buildings arround ours, and many many others in our street. You have no idea how many times I approached wrong people and asked "Are you X and Y , my Airbnb guests?" and they said "No". I felt so stupid :D

We should know who are we waiting for.

 

Yes, hotels do not ask for a photo when guest books. But there the guest arrives, goes to the front desk and introduce themselves. The receptionist then ask him his photo ID , check his reservation and give him the key.

Airbnb doesn't work that way. I get the reservation from initials, just a first name, nicknames or names written in Chinese letters followed by pictures of kittens, flowers etc... and I meet them on the street.

 

Full name and profile picture should be mandatory for everyone who wants to book a private home.  If someone doesn't want to do it then he can book a hotel .

 

 

 

 

 

Dawn in
Singapore
Level 10

What kind of man-idea is this? 

While I respect the intention, it could be a deal breaker for hosting for me.  I'm a single female who hosts in guest rooms in my own home.  While I'm not paranoid at all, and have have regularly been accused of being TOO trusting, there are some common sense safety measures I expect.
 
Being able to know ahead who will be in my home with me and everything I own is just common sense.  If people aren't open enough to share their photo, they shouldn't be staying in my place.  A few hundred completed stays from all demographics from around the world is pretty solid evidence that I don't exclude guests based on race, so taking the precaution of being able to know who will be in my home before accepting them is unfair punishment.  I will seriously reconsider hosting at all when this comes into force.

Christine in
Glenbrook, Australia
Level 10

Unfair discrimination is very hurtful and it disadvantages individuals and communities of people. 

However, in the short term, safety for hosts and guests is a priority. 

Being willing to have a profile photo presented when you request information or accomodation is not an unreasonable ask. 

Hosts are requesting that Airbnb maintain the tools and resources which have allowed them to manage their personal safety.  

 For guests to be open and transparent to Airbnb and to their hosts  is integral to increasing safety for both parties. 

Without having fully considered the bigger picture, history of a number of home based accommodation services, and the potential for things to go wrong, its possible that a well intentioned response may lead to even more critical incidents. 

Speaking from experience, out of nearly 400 guests in my own home, only one visitor's weird behaviour hinted at inappropriate desires towards me. I ignored all of what I observed towards me, and increased the physical barriers in my residence, during his stay. 

He later commented on my professionalism towards him,  and my lack of response / interest to his hints änd gestures, when writing to me in his post checkout message,I sudpect he was fishing for information.  

My response to him was to confirm that Yes, I always conducted myself in a professional mannner towards my guests, and definitely option 2 was also correct,  as I had no interest in providing services of a more personal and private nature to him.

I reminded him (in s private msg) that as a business traveler he represented his employer andif his conduct were known to his employer, it could affect the opportunity for other employees to use Airbnb for travel.

He subsequently changed his profile picture  his gender and his name.

His original profile picture was correct. Social media still  sends links to  his picture its an unpleasant reminder of when I questioned whether I could continue hosting and I felt upset that this individual has made me feel uncomfortable ans less safe. 

I am a grown up, and I accept responsibility for taking steps to reduce risk and ensure my personal safety. And that includes using all the tools svailable.

Please think carefully sbout what is in everyone's best interest before  reducing the ability of Airbnb hosts to see  their guests.

Despite reporting this matter and flagging the profile, I  recieved no official response to acknowledge my concern. 

It bothered me for quite some time as I always followed the advice of Airbnb regarding screening guests,  and having a conversation, to ensure compatible expectations needs snd facilities,  plus I do background checks if required to verify that an ID is Genuine. 

Once the safety of hosts or guests is compromised then people's lives are at greater risk. There may be no turning back,  and we could be looking at a failed experiment.

Please be very careful about what will preserve and protect the sfaety of Airbnb hosts and guests into the long term. You have often advocated that Airbnb is a wonderful resource which has been embraced by women internationally, and has lead to increased economic independence for so many individuals. Please don't lose sight of how these two issues connect. It's not a peripheral issue.  

Thanks for all the good you do.... but..... 

Best regards Christine.

Rachel in
London, United Kingdom
Level 10

My God this makes me cross.  I've got 250 reviews, been a SH for 14 quarters on the trot and only declined guests who wanted to bring babies, pets or something else that would have violated my house rules.  I have had guests from every continent, of every colour and every creed with a minimal number of issues.  I host in my own home, and when I open my front door I want to recognise the person who is standing there and that is MY right.  I notice that no mention has been made of photos of cartoon characters, kittens, puppies etc which so many guests like to use - are they going to be banned or is Airbnb still going to accept them in case it upsets some delicate little guest who is not happy with displaying their face?  What next?  Are names to be witheld as well?  

When my three boys were young they were all members of various sports teams and clubs and passport sized photos of them had to be provided upon registration, together with their dates of birth, to avoid cheating - ie some hulking great 9 year old turning up to play with a puny 6 year old.  Nobody ever questioned this procedure as we could all see that it was for the good of the team and the safelty of the children.  All Airbnb are doing by trying to implement this is successfully giving guests a Cheats Charter and the Hosts are being treated like people of no consequence.  But then, what do we expect these days.

Victoria in
Scotland, United Kingdom
Level 10


@Christine
I would like to know please how a plate of spaghetti, cat, cuddly toy, grey profile etc would still be acceptable as a guest profile photograph as its not clear in the air bnb announcement.

I ask for verified government ID done through the air bnb system so there would be a problem with the veracity of such "verified by air bnb" ID as I don't know yet if any government issuing passports or driving liscences to plates of spaghetti etc.
There needs to be some clarification please.

 

Mark in
Jersey City, NJ
Level 10

This policy is extremely insulting to I would imagine the 99% of hosts who don't discriminate.

 

Also, where is the mysterious key to 'turn on' the request for a photo?  I still do not find it.

 

It's good to know that airbnb cares nothing at all for the safety and peace of mind of their hosts and think it's fine that literally any stranger can show up at their home.

Linda in
La Quinta, CA
Level 10

How does this policy work with Instant Booking?  Since booking is automatically confirmed, will the guest have to provide a credible profile picture?  If so, what action do I as a host have to take to automatically require a photo?

Helga in
Paris, France
Level 10

I think that this change is very annoying, inserting a factor of unease to every arrival (as described by Branka and others obliged to great a dozen strangers before finding a guest) and it will just shift discrimination.

I use the photo for two reasons, first to evaluate if the guest is fit enough to stay savely in my artist’s workshop - for the 60 percent who do not confirm as asked for, that they understood the description and pictures and can cope with it. That means I will have to send one more standard message before the confirmation, to replace the visual check.

The second evaluation is,  if my nerves will stand living with this person in very close quarters. (The question if I may hand over the place to them in my absence, was answered by an airbnb case manager once and for all and I don’t use airbnb for full unit rentals any more). I wish to know in advance, who will share my place with me. A photo is not really necessary for this evaluation, but in absence of a photo, I need about five lines of text. If a guest has no profile description and does not write a sentence during the booking process, I have to ask for it. If I don’t get a useful reply, so far, I sent a second reminder after 6 hours and refused after 12 hours. About 40% get accepted because of their picture in absence of the rest. Asking all those twice more will be too much work. 

The result of it will be, that litterate and eloquent guests get fast confirmations and people not at ease in written language or in a foreign language will not get a booking confirmation.

 

To reduce the annoyance coming from this, I would suggest a few ideas:

 

Can people sharing their home be e exempt? They do not fall under the American non discrimination lawsfor housing anyway. People who deliberately search a home, to profit from all the knowledge and services a real person can supply, should be prepared to show their face.

 

if not, can we have a setting, that the guest needs to write a few lines of profile text? It’s not important what they write there, even if they copy a poem or “Lore ipsum”, it’s a telling statement.

 

It would be great to have verifyable and defined terms for deposits and the illusive host guarantee. Better even, if the procedure had some similarities to laws and regulations in this domain. At the moment, it’s very far from that. Half of a host’s need to know their guests in advance comes from the completely unreliable procedure how airbnb handles damage claims. A host has to filter out potential troubles, even minor ones. If a host holds a real damage deposit, he may accept a sloppy or arrogant looking guest. Without it, it’s just too risky. 

 

Concerning the discrimination alert procedure allowing the guest to raise an alarm easily: will the case handler then at least look at the reviews and ask the host for a statement? As it’s described, it looks like an invitation to all scammers around: Book, ask for a dozen extras and house rule exceptions by phone, and threaten not with a bad review only, but now also with a discrimination cry, if it’s cancelled.

 

I would prefer, that no photos were visible publicly, but only in the booking situation. A guest should see the hosts’ photos only, if he has an account with a valuable payment information and  has entered dates into his search. 

To keep the pictures safer, you could also render them black and white, even apply a drawing filter, and most of all transform them into code. It’s harder to copy code than download a jpg and harder to commit mischief with a drawing. Or a watermarked picture.

 

Mike in
Trinidad, CA
Level 10

Wow, another reason to not host. Removing a host choice to offer a strict, non-refundable option, and now this shady convoluted reason for profile photos?

 

It should be, say with Instant Booking if you must, a copy of current Government ID pic is automatically provided to the host.

 

Any guest reason to not provide such a pic or documentation should be grounds for host cancellation with out penalty.

 

We require all guests to produce ID upon arrival and do not allow third party room purchaces - guests staying must show ID.

 

Rebecca in
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Level 10

I am confused by this faith in a photograph.  How do you all deduce so much from a single photo??

 

I would say that only about 25% of my guests actually look anything like their profile photo, if they have one.   They are usually older, fatter, uglier, wearing glasses and not standing in front of La Sagrada Familia with a sun tan.   That's ok.  We all pick what we think are our most flattering photos even if we look nothing like that on a normal day. 

 

So do you guys welcome your guests with a copy of their photo in your hand and scrutinise them like passport control?  Really? I mean, really?   And if they're not recognisable (as per older, fatter etc), what do you do?   Tell them they don't look anything like their profile photo and they can't enter?  This is a genuine question.   

 

I appreciate that the willingness to upload a photo can be taken as a sign of willingness to be a good airbnb guest.  But it's not guaranteed.  Some of my worst guests have had those lovely smiley photos.  Some of my best guests have had either terrible photos or none at all.  

I don't get it.  Why do you care what your guests look like before they book?  Just, why?  

You can always ask them to send a photo after they've booked so you can check ID if that's necessary for you.  I don't understand why it is necessary to see a photo beforehand.

 

 

Helga in
Paris, France
Level 10

Lol, Rebecca, I have a bad ability to recognise faces or identify a person from a picture. I could never do a passport control like on the border. But there are other uses for a photo. 

I do recognise shapes and postures and can pick out a moving guest in a crowd, what I have to do now and then. 

But the main use is, see character traits in the expression, posture, choice of the picture. The guest puts an image into the profile photo, not a passport picture. The Image they have of themselves. I had jobs where I had to filter several hundreds of job applications down to a number I could interview in a few days, for very different jobs. Analysing the pictures is part of such a job. I would say, it is discrimination to filter out people for their age, color, weight etc. Stupid too, as they may be better at the job. 

But it’s not discrimination to find out character traits and invite the charming exuberant ones for the sales job interviews and the pedantic ones for the accountant position. 

 

As a host, for one night, I can live with both kinds, and some other types.

For several nights, there are personalities, I have a hard time with and probably they with me. It’s only reasonable to make such choices knowingly. 

Not knowing in advance who will arrive, is a source of stress, if you live in close quarters. 

Rebecca in
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Level 10

Dear Helga :)   

"Not knowing in advance who will arrive, is a source of stress, if you live in close quarters."

 

But you never really know who will arrive, do you?  Not really.  After hundreds of guests I've realised that no matter how charming the photo or what positive things they say when booking, nothing is guaranteed.  I have been blind-sided too many times.  

 

I do agree, though, that the photo they choose is the image they have of themselves.  Unfortunately it is often the case that this image is the polar opposite of what they actually are!

But who knows, maybe one day I really will host a cute girl with a cat nose and sparkles coming out of her ears.  That would be fun!

Helga in
Paris, France
Level 10

Well, Rebecca, to me most photos are not charming. I do not even see the freckles.

 

That must be hard not to know what to expect after hundreds of guests ;-( 

I’m rarely surprised. I may be annoyed, but that comes rarely as a full surprise. (The intensity of the annoyance might be)

But even if it was, it would not change my argument: if you know who comes or if you only believe to know who comes, it’s less stressful in both cases.

This morning, a guest was astonished how extremely organised I am. It makes me a good host for very different people. But the other side of it is a need to control my environment. Frankly, for me it will be very stressful not to have those pictures before I decide. Which seems contradictory, as I rarely refuse someone. But it is not: if I have the possibility to decide, it’s my decision and not stressful. Without the possibility / without what you may call the illusion to choose, there is no choice. 

If there is a doubt, if you have no possibility/illusion to choose, the reasonable decision will be much more often to say No. 

Or wait in fear. So far, it was about joy for me.

I’m really, deeply against this idea. 

I would not bet on the acceptance rates staying at the same level globally either. 

Donald in
Lithia Springs, GA
Level 10

I refuse to rent my airbnb to anyone without a last name and photo. Its as simple as that. 

Susan in
Oregon, United States
Level 10

I’m really concerned about this.

 

Are we hosts going to be allowed to use photos of puppies and kittens and flowers for our profiles as well?

 

This is opening the doorway for this platform to become the laughingstock of the lodging world, like some ridiculous dating site, instead of the innovative short-stay community pioneer it’s been.

 

This policy is “kindergarten psychology” creating far more work and putting everyone at risk over a minority of alleged transgressions.  I don’t discriminate against anyone based on the criteria ABB is so afraid of violating, and never will, so why should I have to abide by these changes which have the potentual to backfire in so many ways?

 

Im honest and straightforward in my dealings and operate by mutual respect, stated up front in my listing, and that’s attracted high quality guests. So has prudent house rules and settings which require each guest to request to book.

 

On a more serious note, I’m a single person and my property is remote.  I have a right to be safe, and part of that us knowing the identity visually and otherwise of whos invited to my property and into my space. I do not accept those without ID verification, positive reviews, and recognizable photos.  Period.

 

I don’t allow pets either, so those photos of puppies, kitties, and unicorns don’t work for me either.

 

This policy also has significant potential to become a loophole for the disingenuous and create multilevel customer service problems with declines and cancellations by guests and hosts...by creating MORE opportunity for discrimination, misunderstanding, and booking nightmares.

 

Hosts have a right to decide who will be on thier property. Im not interested in what color skin someone has or what name they give thier creator.  I’m interested in providing a great experience to those who are a good fit for and respect me and my place just as I do them, whether they are purple or blue or worship trees or a benevolent spirit off in the ethers.

 

I have no control over the choices of others and am not interested in being treated like a bigot when I’m not.  Thats reverse discrimination on a huge scale, violating the very ethics this new policy is supposed to avoid.  

 

Rather than punish everyone for the transgressions of a few , wouldn’t it be far more fitting, prudent, and progressive to announce and enforce a well thought out legal and corporate policy of non-discrimination and create a campaign of celebratory and educational multiculturalism instead of insulting everyone and risking our safety in one fell swoop?

 

 

 

Christine in
Glenbrook, Australia
Level 10

@Rebecca
Quote: "Not knowing in advance who will arrive, is a source of stress, if you live in close quarters."
Response: I think perhaps what Helga was saying, is that even if her sense of ease about a guest turned out to be incorrect; at least she felt without anxiety prior to the guest visit. And she wants to experience a positive sense of joy in hosting and anticipation of Joy in hosting is what motivates her. taking away the tool or setting that helps her to joyfully anticipate and prepare for the arrival of of a guest will be a very big negative, greatly impacting on her perception of Hosting as a thing of pleasure. Instead, it may become a source of routine anxiety which is only briefly relieved after the guest has settled in, and tha anxiiety will resume in anticipation of the next guest.
Quote: But you never really know who will arrive, do you? Not really.
Response: Well, yes you do, when you have repeat guests.

Plus, if you can use a guest supplied photo as a resource to aid you in doing a background check on the potential guest, then you can greatly increase your overall knowing about who will be attending your accommodation. In these situations; knowing refers to a host's ability to know what is relevant to making a correct match between guest and accommodation. 
Quote: I have been blind-sided too many times.
Response: Well, that really suggests a lot to me. I would only consider myself to have been seriously disappointed in the behaviour of 1/350 guests. I personally appreciate the ability to thoroughly screen guests based on photos, combined with a couple of extra points of information that I will sometimes request. my goal is to ensure they have chosen accommodation which will meet their needs and suit them in a more general sense, eg location, privacy space, amenities. At the same time I think they should be able to have a generic public photo if they wish, as long as they present a personal pic and their name to me when enquiring about my accommodation listing.
Rebecca, I really liked your positive optimistic encouragement, a lot of what you wrote was funny, pointing out irony and little flaws in logic.

But there are some significant, legitimate, safety and hosting concerns which can be genuinely aided by the use of a profile photo. Even if the profile pic is only activated/visible during correspondence and transactions. Try doing more background checks, they might help reduce unpleasant surprises.

 Hi Lizzie, I hope you are well.

Thankyou @Airbnb

Regards, Christine.

 

Helga in
Paris, France
Level 10

Christine, thank you, you describe my motives in hosting clearer then I did. 

Rebecca and I know and like each other for many years and I believe in reality we are very similar hosts, with a similar low price high frequency setting and the guests getting a bit extra, especially in form of respect and interest in them. 

I don’t check backgrounds or social media profiles. I don’t wish to intrude in my guests’s private life. That part of the discussion forme was only about perception, how much you can conclude from a picture alone, without a reverse search of the picture. 

I could live with a not searchable picture rendered by code. 

 

I started on airbnb at a time, where most people did not put pictures of themselves in the profile, but you could call them before the booking was concluded. That helped in many cases and it was more of a community then anyway. Besides, the host held the deposit during the stay. 

Then came a time without phone calls - and no more physical deposit. I started sharing my place then, on a nightly basis, with cats, flowers, sunsets and a dangerous picture making me meet the guest in a bistro, where I pushed “accept” the picture of a tiny frightened 18 year old on his first trip. This was a permanent source of stress, beside the positive parts. Compared to other jobs, it took a heavy toll on my time, including for some desperate checks in advance. 

Having photos nearly for every booking, reduced my stress level and my work load  considerably. 

 

I worked in sales for many years. “Safe” and “Easy” are good sales arguments, as - in my private opinion -  has some fears and is lazy if possible. “A higher moral good” works much less well. Here we get sold the higher good of non discrimination and have to pay pay more work and more fear. I guess it will be added to the collection of egregious marketing errors to be presented in trainings in a few years. 

 

Christine in
Glenbrook, Australia
Level 10

Hi Helga. What a lovely reply. I guess because I share some of your sentiments I understood what you were expressing..

In the news here in Australia, we have reminders about risks to our personal safety when we admit others into our personal space. Knowing that you are accountable acts as a powerful deterrent.  That's a good risk management tool.

I used to hitchhike when I was younger. Not any more. 

Keeping pressure on Airbnb to facilitate and maintain best practice for Host safety and guests as well, is doing them a favour. There are lots of competing priorities, above all of these is safety and if an organisation or individual acts contrary to sound advice about management options for foreseeable risks, then they are operating in a high risk business environment and nobody wants to do that. They may find themselves sharing or shouldering responsibility for events they could have helped to prevent. 

Sensible heads need to prevail and we can all get through this. If not we are inviting trouble into our homes, and it's not a lot safer than hitchhiking.

You want to know you will be ok before you get in the vehicle, not after you alight-escape

Regards.

Rebecca in
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Level 10

I'm trying to respond but keep getting an "Unexpected Error" message. 

So this is a test....!

 

Edit:   wouldn't you know it, that posted just fine.  Sigh.

Rebecca in
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Level 10

@Helga

"That must be hard not to know what to expect after hundreds of guests ;-( "

 

No, not really.  I just expect guests!!  Almost all are perfectly fine, some are nicer than others naturally.  But I can only judge them when I actually meet them.  Of course I often get a good or bad feeling about a particular upcoming guest based on their written communication but it's happened so many times that I've been wrong, I try not to do it.   Having said that, I do dread hosting other hosts :(

 

I like and understand your analysis of why it is important to have control over the decision-making process and how photos are a part of that process, even if it is illusory.  My cavalier attitude is probably because I use Instant Book so my ability to decide is minimal, practically non-existent in fact.  Also because I don't live alone and my house is big enough to avoid guests when necessary, plus I am pretty tough these days and guests rarely try to take advantage.  

Rebecca in
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Level 10

@Christine Thank you for such a comprehensive and thoughtful post.  I do understand why profile photos are important for many hosts, I only want to point out that they (photos) are not a reliable indicator of what to expect.   My talk of being "blind-sided" is based on a lot of experience, yes it's only my experience of course!   To expand:  just because guests have a nice smiley photo and tell me how clean and tidy they are does not mean they will be good guests.  In fact, if they actually feel the need to tell  me that they are 'clean and tidy', the chances are they're the complete opposite.  The guest with a slightly weird photo and basic communication can often turn out to be wonderful in person.  It's happened to me so many times now, I aim to be completely neutral (as far as humanly possible) when anticipating guests.  I suppose it's a kind of self-defence mechanism.  If you allow yourself to be optimistic about guests, there's a good chance you will be disappointed.  If you allow yourself to be pessimistic, there's a good chance you will be surprised and delighted.  Either way is too much emotion invested for me these days!  So I aim for neutral.  I don't always succeed, of course.   Plus, the blindsided part also applies to reviews but that's another conversation!

 

ps. Seems like the reply Error only occurs when replying to the poster.  A technical glitch, gosh how unusual for Airbnb....

Helga in
Paris, France
Level 10

I had the technical error a dew times since ai came back to the CC because of this plan.

one reason is if you are offline and it seems you are logged out automatically pretty quickly now. 

Another reason is, if you change the network. On the phone, if it changes from one wifi net to another or to phone data, the app has some malfunctions , the calendar does not work and the CC neither. 

On the tablet, wifi switched off for a while and airbnb app open the while: same thing. 

Thanks, Rebecca, for the hont with Answering a poster, that might explain why I could not answer Christine today. 

Helga in
Paris, France
Level 10

Christine, the hitchhiker comparison made me laugh. It is so true. And everyone would say an old lady was crazy, should she hitchhike, but if she was an airbnb host such a risky behaviour should be seen as a virtue?

if it vomes to show off hosts, airbnb is so proud of having those old ladies to show, hosting at home, to make ends meet and combat loneliness ;-)

Christine in
Kansas City, MO
Level 10

This is ludicrous. Who comes up with these solutions? I don't know of ANY host that asked for this solution. We asked for more photos, not less. I've had to turn down several requests because I knew they were fraudulent (no photo, inaccurate photo, etc.)

I'm AA and I know how tough it feels to be discriminated against but I also don't want to stay in the home of someone who doesn't want me. So Airbnb needs to get its act together. I want to see who I'm renting from and who I'm renting too before we go through the hassle of acceptance. Not to discriminate, but so I can make a connection..

I'm sorry some people are offended when there is discrimination but those aren't common occurences. In those rare cases those hosts should be removed (and those guests who discriminate). But to change the entire platform and make it LESS safe for the rest of us by sending us guests who are renting our personal properties (not our commercial properties) is not reasonable.

I remember renting my first Airbnb in Paris and the host asked to friend me on Facebook so she could get comfortable. It was great, i got to know her too from her posts, and we had a marvelous time at her place.

 

Back then - Airbnb was not about renting space, it was also about building relationships.

sooo..

I need to know who is coming to my house. I have promised the city and the neighbors that I know who is coming. To have to wait until afterwards to see who they are is not a problem if it is MANDATORY that they provide a full name and photo.

And let's be clear. This is the USA where racial tensions are making things worse. Why put us in that position?

We don't want to stay at a racist place and those people don't want to stay at our place so why not let the chips fall and deal with it when it occurs.

Get your act together, Airbnb. You need some grownups in the system working on these new rules because they make no sense at all. The idea that you could even conceive that it is safe to allow a stranger to come to someone's house from the poor amount of vetting that is done (remember the post about stolen credit cards and photos????) is egregious!

Lesley in
England, United Kingdom
Level 1

As a single lady super-host  I have not had any reason to be suspicious of any guest but after 2 recent bookings I have recently  decided to be more safety conscious. I think removing the photo is a very bad idea and I would have to seriously consider wether to accept only female guests or anyone without one . The one guest I accepted who I wished I hadn’t had a less than friendly strange photo and I should have gone with my gut instinct and declined his booking . I also believe that the guest profiles should have more content about themselves. I think Airbnb  have to remember that Hosts like me are living in very close proximity to some guests who may make us feel uncomfortable. 

Please think carefully on making any new policies regarding photos . 

Alan & Linda in
Stockport, United Kingdom
Level 1

Why are hosts required to display a photo of themselves before a guest books ??

David in
Auckland, New Zealand
Level 4

Totally agree.  I want to see a proper photo showing the guest, and maybe their family, so I know they are a decent person. I must be allowed to judge for myself, and have the right to refuse a booking if they don’t suit me. If I’m too fussy I won’t get any bookings. We often make a decision to accept based on a photo, as well as their reason for travelling.

Uncle Brutha in
Washington, DC
Level 2

I have a home with three separate living quarters; a main floor where I house my 83 year old mother, a second floor in-law suite which I occupy and a private basement apartment I use for hosting Airbnb guests. I will admit that because I have my mother here, I  have a pretty strict set of rules and guidelines to which I expect my guests to agree and follow during their stay.  I have had people provide misleading information to book my basement unit only to find they had other intentions.

 

People have figured out that Airbnb is an inexpensive way to find a very nice space for hosting parties. I once had a young woman say she was planning a “stay-cation” with her boy friend. Turns out, she was planning a birthday party for her girlfriend and about a dozen or so other guests . My rules state explicitly NO PARTIES. 

 

I had another young woman book very last minute saying that her father was having a medical procedure in a nearby hospital. When she arrived, let’s just say her wardrobe suggested she engaged in a particular line of work that isn’t necessarily legal. BUT, who am I to judge. I suddenly started getting requests from other women with very “suggestive” profile pictures. Had word gotten around at that point? Perhaps. Hard to say for sure. Don’t care to find out, though. Profile pic too suggestive? Declined. 

 

Some profiles just have a picture and nothing else which suggests to ME an aversion to transparency. Even though I ask guests to provide some info as to why they’re coming and what has attracted them to my space,  rather than decline immediately, which I very well could at that point, I will ask a few questions, fish for more info. If they willingly respond, I will then take both their response and picture into consideration when deciding whether to accept, decline or cancel. 

 

That said, I have had a couple of guests match up perfectly. Good communication, pleasant upon arrival, match their profile pic; all good. Next thing I know, I’m getting complaints from my mother about smelling weed smoke. Smoking of ANY kind is NOT permitted due to her congestive heart failure. All that to say, while it’s not a perfect measure, I’d rather have a picture of a potential guest, RIGHT UP FRONT, than not at all.

 

If a request or an instant booking comes through without a photo, I will decline or cancel it immediately. If that means I will no longer be hosting on Airbnb, then so be it. 

Pom & Tom in
Oslo, Norway
Level 1

 

Host should be granted access to a "guests background" page where a copy of the guests ID can be viewed. Social security numbers and passport/ID number can be cencored. But the guests picture, name, birth date and other details should be clearly visible.

 

I've had many guests who use "fake" photos (not representative of or displaying their current looks) and use "fake"/alternate names.

As a host it is kinda uncomfortable when you are expecting a guest and "someone else" turns up. 
I wouldn't refuse anyone the right to use a paid booking, but it would be nice to see Airbnb adress the host's security a bit too.

 

Allen in
Brownsville, OR
Level 4

Carli in Singapore,

I wholeheartedly second your opinion; especially the points you make about "knowing ahead who will be in my home with me and everything I own" AND "completed stays from all demographics from around the world is pretty solid evidence that I don't exclude guests based on race".

Yours Truly,

Allen [Superhost of "Santuary on School Avenue" in Brownsville, Oregon, USA]

Allen in
Brownsville, OR
Level 4

Susan in Oregon,

Couldn't agree with your thorough explanation and recommendation more.

Kudos,

Allen [Superhost of "Sanctuary on School Avenue" in Brownsville, OR]

Allen in
Brownsville, OR
Level 4

Christine in Kansas City, MO:

 Just wanted to validate your well-thought-out opinion regarding AIRBNB (ABB) proposing to alter the guest/host photo requirements. Our first use of ABB was as guests in a family's flat in Copenhagen, Denmark five years ago.

 

 My  wife, who is Asian-American and also very private, and I wrestled with uploading a "selfie" that we could both agree on to my ABB Profile. But, once we experienced a very warm welcome and two-night stay with our Italian host, his Danish wife, and their two small children, we knew immediately that we wanted to be a part of this new sharing economy because, as you reiterated, "it's also about building relationships."

 

Very Best Regards,

Allen & Shih-Lin (pronounced "sure-lean" [Superhost at Sanctuary on School Avenue in Brownsville, OR] 

Allen in
Brownsville, OR
Level 4

Uncle Brutha in Washington, DC:

Ditto.

Very Best Regards,

Allen (SH of "Sanctuary on School Avenue", Brownsville, Oregon)

Ruth in
West Palm Beach, FL
Level 6

Precisely!  I have never discriminated against any guests and have had guests of all races and religions in my home.  I did, however, have a guest leave my home when a man of dark pigment check-in and AirBnB issued a full refund before checking with me as to the circumstances of the guest's sudden "discomfort".  I have since learned of at least 2 other hosts with similar stories.

 

I also remember the story of the Asian woman turned away from a Bear Mountain accomodation, after traveling in a snow storm.  While I don't condone any form of racism, wouldn't a guest be better off not having a reservation accepted than to have a host turn them away at the door?

 

I feel that we, single women, who have done nothing wrong, are having our safety jeopardized by a policy that will actually not address the true culprits.  If people are not comfortable with people of color, they are not going to suddenly welcome in their doors just because AirBnB no longer requires pictures.  AirBnB is putting out a "solution" for appearances that does not really solve the problem.  Meanwhile, it may well mean costing me, and others, who have been loyal hosts, our businesses.

 

Currently, free platforms such as Couchsurfing even have photos that are thoroughly verified along with address verification.  I don't think asking for a photo is too much to ask.

Ruth in
West Palm Beach, FL
Level 6

This is why all the new AirBnB properties coming online are cheap apartments with a bed and no heat :-(.  They have lost their niche of being homestays.  I'm going to Asia for 2 months next month and for my first long trip in the last couple years, I will not be using AirBnB.   I'm very sad that AirBnB has lost its way.

Ruth in
West Palm Beach, FL
Level 6

Considering that AirBnB has refunded more than one guest for discriminating, in one case even going so far as listing in their reason "cultural differences" (which sounds like discrimination to me...this was not my guest, but a fellow host), I don't feel they are actually addressing the issue.  They are simply trying to find something they can bring to the press and say, "look, we're fixing the problem", while the press doesn't know any better.

Ruth in
West Palm Beach, FL
Level 6

What I find most amazing in all of this is that IF AirBnB decides to implement this and IF I still keep my home as a vacation rental (and that's a HUGE if), I feel no incentive to then focus on AirBnB.  The one reason I've stayed with AirBnB is the ability to vet my guests, including having a profile picture.  It seems that other hosts are making much more money on other platforms.  I haven't wanted to go to those platforms due to the lack of security.  As AirBnB moves in that direction and away from the Homestay niche, it seems that I should just vacate my home and put it out on these other platforms.

 

I don't know why they're leaving their niche.  It's creating problems in communities.  More and more lousy accomodations are coming up, using former apartments as short-term rentals that really aren't "homes", which is why communities are then shutting down STRs.  Sigh.

Judy in
Marblehead, MA
Level 4

Carli - I am with you on this.  I too am a single female hosting in my home, and there is no way I'm going to allow someone to book without a verified photo.  I guess this means taking down instant booking and requiring both me and my potential guests to go through the hassle of communicating back/forth before booking.  I like being able to the balance of ease of frictionless transactions while still giving me some control, but this new policy will make it more difficult for everyone except absentee hosts who could care less who stays in their home.

 

Seriously, Airbnb - remember that without hosts you are nothing. In our metro area, and many others, local laws are prohibiting new Airbnb rentals unless they're owner-occupied.  That's an immediate constraint on Airbnb's ability to scale. And if they force hosts out through these ridiculous policies, they restrict their growth even more.

 

Paul in
London, United Kingdom
Level 2

Carli, your comment is somewhat confusing. As I understand it, you will get to see a photo of any future guest once the booking has been confirmed. I have to ask this question, to make your comment relevant. What content with a profile pic would make you reject a booking? Do you only want female guests?

Jess in
Eugene, OR
Level 10

I just accepted a reservation from a guest without a profile picture. I assumed that, because of this post, the profile picture would be appearing after the reservation was complete. Nope. 

‘Can you update us on why this isn’t happening? Why post this ‘news’ if it’s not ready/not true?

Level 10

I don't care about an image unless they actually have a confirmed reservation. But if they do I would like one so I know who to expect given the problems of third party bookings and airbnb not covering them, and Airbnb not honoring payments that are discovered to fraudulent when the 'guest'  is already here or has already left.

 

Where will this feature be?

Screen Shot 2018-11-30 at 12.14.39 PM.png

 

But,  I would prefer if Airbnb made sure of the following, which is stated on their policy:

"Guests need to have this info completely filled out before they can make a reservation request.
Airbnb’s requirements for guests include:
Full name
Email address
Confirmed phone number
Introductory message
Agreement to house rules
Payment information"

 

I have some with nothing on their profile,  not even an email or telephone number, even when it's an Instant Book.

Cor in
Langerak, Netherlands
Level 10

I’m completely baffled! Which non-existing problem, is Airbnb trying to solve this time?

When guests do not want to share a clear profile picture (or any other personal detail) of themselves, they already have loads of options available to them!

The request by hosts for clear pictures of their (prospective) guests is always at or near the top of the list, prior to any Q&A session. And what happens next? Airbnb is taking the opposite direction and making things even worse!

Hosts trust their guests with costly belongings. And guests are already allowed to hide about just anything in their profile. And soon it will even be less, so it seems.

Guests can already simply lie too, about just anything in their profile (we’ve already witnessed about all of these lies).

A couple of months ago, I was asked (completely out of the blue) to upload my government ID (to ensure future payouts)? I had 14 days to comply with this request.

And really for no reason, I could think of (most likely there was no real reason either).

 

I always figured, Airbnb's original motto was about trust. And just out of common human courtesy. It is perfectly normal for people, wanting to know who they’re dealing and communicating with.

 

It’s becoming more and more clear, which group of customers is highly favored by Airbnb.

Hosts are customers of Airbnb too, you know!

Or at least: Free-of-any-charge suppliers.

Level 10

@Cor    "I’m completely baffled!  Which non-existing problem". 

Slight edit:  is Airbnb creating this time?

 

I also agree re: ID.  I have a hard time believing the reason is the reason it claims. Traditional ID was created as an in-person form of identity verification, being online tens, hundreds, thousands of miles away is not the same, even Airbnb admit it is no guarantee.

 

Airbnb states:  "...  [a verified ID]  isn’t an endorsement of any host or guest, a guarantee of someone’s identity, or an assurance that interacting with them will be safe."    https://www.airbnb.com/help/article/1237/how-does-it-work-when-airbnb-asks-for-an-id

 

Tracey in
Apsley, Canada
Level 6

I agree with Carli 100%.  I too am a single female host - a Superhost, living in the bush up in cottage country, renting rooms in my own personal chalet where I live full-time and year-round ... and my nearest neighbours are over a kilometre away.  This is going to be a deal breaker for me too.  Like Carli, I've hosted people from all around the world, of every color and faith.  I don't discriminate, but I am painfully aware of how many criminals are running around free in my country, in my province, in my nearest cities.  One of our top Canadian Military Brass, Colonel Russell Williams - flying around the world as a dignitary with our last Prime Minister, Stephen Harper - was convicted of breaking in and raping women just over an hour from my place.   Airbnb repeatedly tells it's hosts that safety and security are paramount ... but truthfully and realistically, it appears to be no more than lip service.  It is absolutely outrageous that a host, bringing complete strangers from the internet into their home where all their personal belongings and private data reside (and especially for those hosts who live in remote and secluded locations), cannot first see a profile picture of the prospective guest to make sure their picture is not of someone they've seen wanted on the news for some crime.   Airbnb is showing absolutely ZERO REGARD, ZERO CARE OR CONCERN FOR THE SAFETY AND SECURITY OF THEIR HOSTS WITH THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THIS KEEPING THE GUEST'S IDENTITY A VIRTUAL SECRET UNTIL AFTER THEY HAVE BOOKED.  This will DEFINITELY not work for me.

Tracey in
Apsley, Canada
Level 6

I agree with Christine 100%.  I too have had the uneasy and disturbing experience of a guest booking my place with false identification.  Once the guests had gotten a bit of a wine buzz, the girl that booked my place went upstairs, and her partner remained drinking on the back deck - then told me her real name was not the name she used to book my place with.  I immediately called airbnb to see how and why people were able to open accounts with false identification and misrepresent who they are to thier hosts.  I was beside myself considering the facts that these people have stayed in my home, know where all the entrances and locks are, know the layout of the house, know the property from the back bush side, know who I am, where I live by myself so remotely, where my bedroom is located in the house  ... and I have no idea who these people are, or why they booked my place with fake I.D.  Initially, Airbnb told me they would look into it, and get back to me with the proper name and identity of my guest.  After dozens of calls over several weeks trying to get an answer from them, they finally told me they would not be revealing her identification due to privacy issues!  That is un-freakin-belivable!   They've been in my home, they know who I am, they are now familiar with the entire layout of my home and property, and they know how isolated I live ... but I have no idea who these people really are, or what they're up to with their deceptiions.  How can I possibly believe Airbnb when they tell me that safety and security of their hosts are paramount?  Obviously, it's all about their commission, and ensuring the safety and security of their hosts is merely a lip-service tag line.  Now that they are virtually planning on keeping the identity of the guest a secret until AFTER they've booked, is absolutely outrageous, and only goes to prove further how little disregard Airbnb really has for the safety and security of it's hosts ... and in my case - Superhost.  This will be a deal-breaker for me as I have no intention of booking a guest first, then figuring out if they're on the America's Most Wanted list!

Tracey in
Apsley, Canada
Level 6

 

Could not agree more with Rachel.  Hosts and Superhosts alike are treated like people of no consequence.  I am a single female, living remotely up in the bush in cottage country with no neighbours within site or earshot, I'm a Superhost with 280 reviews, I've never cancelled a single booking, I've hosted people from all around the world, of all races, colors and religions ... I don't discriminate, but I do want to know who's coming to spend overnights in my secluded cottage country chalet.  It was only a couple of years ago that a top Canadian Military Brass - Colonel Russel Williams - was convicted of raping and killing women just over an hour from my place.  This guy was a top Canadian military dignitary, flying all around the world with our sitting Prime Minister at the time ... and raping and killing women in his off-time.  We have hundreds, if not thousands of "not criminally responsible" criminals wandering the streets of our Canadian cities and towns ... it's already difficult enough to do our own due diligence in screening our guests for our own safety and security ... without Airbnb making it even easier now for criminals to slip through the cracks by not having to show their face BEFORE booking themselves into someone's private home.  This will DEFINITELY be a deal-breaking decision for me.  I have no intention of accepting an anonymous-type booking first, then trying to figure out AFTER they've booked if they're on the America's Most Wanted List!  Thanks Airbnb for all your care and concern for the safety and security of your Superhosts.

Susan in
Oregon, United States
Level 10

Thank you follow Oregon Sanctuary Steward failrly close by @Allen !

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