Thanks for all of your feedback on the recent changes we announced to the guest profile photo process. Our team has read each and every one of your comments. We understand many of you are feeling frustrated right now, so we want to respond with some more details and clarification.
First, we want to acknowledge that this is a complicated and emotional topic: It touches on elements such as discrimination, choice, safety, and equality between Airbnb hosts and guests. As always, we’ve been really impressed by the quality of the conversations, and the supportiveness of the community in this thread. We’ve had significant discussion and debate about it internally at Airbnb, too. It’s clear that we need to keep listening and engaging with you (our hosts and partners) on this topic, and we commit to continuing to do so.
At the same time, it’s important that we also continue to take guest concerns into account. Most guests do provide a profile photo, but others told us that they didn’t want to share a picture of themselves when booking on Airbnb because they’re concerned their photos could be misused in a way that violates Airbnb’s nondiscrimination policy. As you know, Airbnb’s mission is to create a world where people can belong anywhere, and we want to make sure guests can feel comfortable when they travel on Airbnb.
We also know from many conversations with hosts (and from reading through your comments here) that you really value profile photos, for several important reasons (knowing what guests look like before they arrive, feeling safer, etc.). We always want to balance the needs of both hosts and guests and, at the same time, make sure we’re working towards Airbnb’s mission. It can be exceptionally hard to get that balance right, but we tried to do this with these recent changes.
As we highlighted in our previous post, the new policy means that Airbnb will not require guests to provide a profile photo and that, for those guests who choose to provide a profile photo, those photos will not be shown to hosts until after the booking is accepted. At the same time, we introduced a new host control that allows you to opt in to require that your guests provide a profile photo prior to submitting a booking request. This photo will be shown to hosts as soon as you accept the booking request, so you’ll be able to ensure you know what your guests look like before they arrive. In addition, you can always require your guests to provide a government ID to Airbnb, as well (more on that here).
Here are a few more tips to help you build trust with guests before a trip:
Now, there are a few key themes we read in your comments about these changes, and we want to take a few minutes to address each of them:
Safety: Many of you mentioned that you’re not comfortable hosting someone who doesn't want to show their face, and some of you pointed out that you’re in challenging situations (remote locations and solo female hosts, for instance). This is an incredibly important topic. We’ve read through your responses, and we are committed to looking for ways to build trust between guests and hosts in all situations.
We’d like to extend an invitation to the engaged host community following this thread. Our home safety team is brainstorming ideas for how we could improve your experience and ensure you feel more safe hosting. While we have lots of ideas, we know the best solutions will come from listening to you, so we’d like to connect directly. Please let us know in the comments, below.
Timing: Many of you asked when you would see the changes to the guest profile photo process occur. We’re rolling them out gradually, as we often do with new products or processes. Currently, these changes have been introduced to 75% of hosts globally, and in the coming weeks will be available to 100% of hosts.
Profile photos: A number of you raised concerns about profile photos that show a picture of a sunset or the guest’s dog instead of the guest themselves. We have updated our policies to address these concerns. If you choose to turn on the new control and require that your guests have a profile photo, you can call Airbnb’s Community Support if you accept a reservation from a guest that does not have a profile photo of themselves. Our Community Support team will work with you to address the situation. If you feel uncomfortable hosting someone without a photo of themselves, you can request to cancel the reservation penalty-free. (We recommend messaging the guest directly before cancelling.)
Discrimination: We do not condone discrimination by any member of the Airbnb community. These changes are part of our commitment to combating discrimination. Many of you responded that you believe these changes were unnecessary because you share our commitment to diversity and inclusion. We appreciate that feedback and can’t overstate the importance of having a host community that is engaged on this topic. Nonetheless, guests have consistently told us that they have concerns about hosts making decisions based on profile photos in violation of our Non-discrimination policy. We believe the changes to how we display photos addresses these concerns while balancing hosts’ interest in seeing potential guests before they arrive. Making these changes was an incredibly complex decision, for all the reasons you raised, but after significant debate (and working with many experts on this topic), we decided they were crucial changes to make.
Thank you for continuing to give us feedback and support as we strive to continue improving Airbnb for both hosts and guests. We hope you understand that we needed to make these changes to ensure a world of belonging and inclusivity. Please continue to tell us how we can improve, and we’ll continue to listen and adjust as we work to ensure you can feel comfortable and confident hosting.
The Airbnb Team
Glad you have heard us about the photos. But you still haven’t addressed two key issues:
1). Many first-time guests don’t even provide a profile and description of themselves. And your options for reasons for refusing do not include that, which I feel they should.
2). Why can we not see the ratings guests have received? They can see how hosts have been rated. That seems fundamantally inequitable.
Thank you for your reply here and for sharing your thoughts.
In regards to your first point, perhaps to help with this, you might like to opt in for the new host control that allows you to require your guests to provide a profile photo. As mentioned above, you can find out more information on how to add this requirement, here. This option, is currently rolled out to 75% of all hosts and this will be rolled out fully in the coming weeks if you are unable to see it at the moment.
In addition, you mention generally quite a lot of new Airbnb guests don't have photos/description, do you have any ideas on how you think they could be encouraged to add these?
Thanks for replying. I shall of course switch on the photo requirement.
I see others are also asking for more profile information. You could put simple switches in that don’t allow a guest to even register with AirBnB and enquire for bookings unless they have completed their profile: “that section cannot be blank”. You can also be much bolder in telling them what information they have to give. And, as someone else has commented, governement ID and their city and country of origin/residence should be obligatory. I got a completely blank enquiry last week - guest name and nothing else - and there is no way to address that in the Decline options, which is both unfair and causes frustration.
You didn’t address my second point about guest ratings. What I see and what I increasingly feel (after more than four years Superhosting) is that there is a real imbalance between the approach to guests and that to hosts. Reciprocity is a key value of peer-to-peer community platforms, and you have moved a long way from that while your competitors are much more balanced. That obviously gives hosts inceasing choice of platforms. It would be so simple to share guest ratings with us without any element of discrimination. After all they are as objective data as the host ratings.
I think you've hit the nail on the head with your statement, " You can also be much bolder in telling them what information they have to give."
There is a world of difference between "encouraging" and "requiring" users (both hosts and guests), to complete their profiles. I used to encourage my cat to stay off the sofa. You can imagine how successful that was.
If the policy was stated, and the requirement coded such that a user is unable to go beyond the profile creation page until it's complete, then the issue is made moot. Will such a requirement discourage people from signing up/using the system? Yes, likely some. Are these the kind of folks who are likely to be good hosts and good guests, who share the "community values" that the company promotes, and who are comfortable with the intimacy of sharing space with strangers? Likely not. The outcome of such a requirement seems like a win for everyone, as hosts and guests who carry through with the creation and completion of a profile are far more likely to be consistent users of the platform, and people who understand the concept of give and take, rather than take, take, take.
Thanks @Jennifer1421 for your feedback and ideas on how to encourage guest to provide more information on their profile.
Out of interest, as there are different levels of information that could be provided (some like to share more than others), what would be the basic level of information you as a host and you think others would like to see in a guest profile and type of information?
Thanks, @Lizzie, for replying. Sorry for the "wall of text" that follows.
I certainly can't speak to what others are comfortable with, as the proponderance of listing types vary so greatly. I've seen posts where the hosts have a gender requirement as they offer shared rooms, or single females wanting same gender guests for safety and personal comfort. Presumably there are male hosts who would only want to host other men. So I can only speak for myself here.
This is an example of what I think we can all agree on as unacceptable:
This person, who would like to stay in my home has a mobile phone and (presumably) lives in Toronto. That's all I know, as even this person's name is non-specific as to gender (you'll have to take my word for it, as I've blocked it for privacy).
I believe that a photo should be required to be uploaded (though in my circumstances I don't need to see it before I accept the request), government id should be required and matched by the platform to the uploaded photo through facial recognition. If these things are done, I have the comfort of knowing that this is a real person, a traceable person. I also believe a verfied phone # and an email should be required.
I think that this should be the minimum standard for every single person using the platform. Hosts are not shipping widgets to these people, we're opening our homes to them. As Jo says below, make this required information, even if it's not actually shared with hosts. Just knowing that it has been done will calm many people's fears.
I'm not quite sure about how to acheive a balance with gender requirements, though. Hosts who have such a requirement should be served by the platform. Tough to balance with guests who perhaps don't identify as a specific gender, though. I guess this is a case where input from both sides of equation be solicited to try to find a solution.
Something written in the bio section is welcome - everyone feels more comfortable when you have a hint of another person's personality. In the case of the above guest (who has not filled out a bio), all they had to say in their message to me was, "Looking forward to it!" Not helpful. No hints to be garnered about this person from that. Biographies would be helpful, and I would suggest "encouraging" they be filled out with language along the lines of: "Tell us about yourself. Hosts who receive booking requests from you are 75% (whatever the statistic is, and I'm sure Airbnb knows it) more likely to accept your request if you fill this section out". I think, however, that "encouraging" this is pretty weak, though. Let's be realistic. Some people do want and need to know about their guest's personalities. If filling the bio section out were required, a great deal of time would be saved on both host's and guest's ends, and may result in a happier group of people.
Our world is full of choices. I understand that @Airbnb wishes to offer people as many as practicable. If there is reluctance on the part of the company to require the above from travelers, and if said travelers are absolutely loathe to provide this information (for whatever reason), then perhaps a policy can be created and a statement can be made like this: "For those guests who don't "choose" to share photos and ids, booking options are limited to the hotels and managed properties that are on offer." Make the statement up front when users are creating a profile. I imagine that the folks who "choose" to share this information will far surpass those who don't. If not, though, Airbnb is still offering a choice and still getting the business, just not in private homes.
For private homes, vetting users (by at a minimum ensuring that they are who they say, and they are traceable) should be an absolute requirement, and will result in a much better balance.
If a potential guest has good reviews then I am happy not to have their profile picture until the booking is confirmed but if the guest is a new guest then a profile picutre should be a must.
We as hosts are vunerable as we are opening our homes to guests that we need to feel comfortable with.
We expose everything about ourselves, why should the guest not be open about themselves.
If the guest does not want to share information about himself then I feel we do not need them as guests.
I find this change of profile picture very disappointing from Airbnb's side and feel that they do not have the host at there best interest.
The most basic of online forms can prevent a submission being made unless specific fields are filled in. For example, if you sign up for a newsletter, the form will not allow you to submit until you've provided your email address.
The developers at Airbnb have built some pretty amazing things over the years, so I can't imagine that it would be too difficult to build a sign up form that requires certain information; whether it's text (bio), images (government ID, selfie, profile photo), dates, email address, phone number, social media links, etc.
If aspiring new members were required to provide the information in order to sign up, it would be beneficial to both hosts and guests. And of course, Airbnb.
Similarly, just as current Airbnb users have to take action to agree to updates in the TOS, they could be prevented from making new bookings as guests or hosts until they have updated their profiles with the missing information.
Thanks @Jennifer1421 for sharing your thoughts. It really is good to hear ideas on ways to improve the process.
Similarly to my question to Jennifer above, and I know you have touched upon the range of things, but do you have thoughts on what the basic level of information you would like to see?
Did you perhaps mean this message for me? In case you did, I’m going to share my thoughts.
First off, @Jennifer1421, in her reply to you, has done an excellent job of expressing many of my own thoughts.
I agree: I can only speak for myself as all of our listings and locations and real life situations vary tremendously. As an Airbnb user I’m around about a 2:1 guest:host ratio (I travel as a guest twice as often as I host), so I’m looking at this issue from both perspectives, guest and host.
FROM A HOST PERSPECTIVE
In my specific situation, I host in a popular holiday town on the east coast of South Africa. My family has owned our home for over 20 years and we dearly love our little apartment. It’s not an investment/money making property. We live an hour or so away, and we rent out the whole apartment during holiday season.
It is of vital importance to us that our guests, our home, our family, and our neighbours are all safe, secure, and well taken care of.
It grieves me to say (especially on this international forum) that South Africa is a country with serious safety and security issues. Because of this, proper vetting of guests is absolutely paramount for everyone’s safety. This is why the continued undermining of host freedoms and continued focus on guest obscurity is deeply concerning to me. So much so that I have already removed my listing from Airbnb.
For me to be able to host with confidence in my particular circumstances, this is what action I would like to see from Airbnb:
1) Restore guest profile photos.
2) Perform proper background/security checks on guests. If this was done thoroughly, there would be fewer safety and security problems.
3) Require the following in order for new members to sign up, and for current members to continue using the platform:
-Clear facial profile photo
-Useful, informative bio
-Where guest/host/user is from
-When guest/host/user joined Airbnb
-Current contact details
This basic background information should be provided before guests can send booking enquiries or requests.
4) Have real consequences for bad and dangerous guests: ban them from the platform so that we don’t end up hosting them.
5) Take a real security deposit and allow hosts to recover costs from it. At present, the process of recovering costs from guests who have caused damage is cumbersome and inefficient.
6) Provide guest star ratings for hosts to see. Hosts deserve to know if guests break house rules, have low cleanliness ratings or poor communication.
There may well be some hosts who don’t feel they need this detail at all. But perhaps there are those, like me, who would find it immensely helpful.
FROM A GUEST PERSPECTIVE
When I first signed up to Airbnb, there was no such thing as a Bélo. It was back in these days:
My husband and I signed up under his name. (I later made my own account when I decided to become a host.)
I remember thinking at the time that the sign up process was exciting. I felt as though we were joining this new, intriguing community of people willing to share their homes, hospitality, and trust. The sign up took a while, because there were photos to upload, IDs to verify, contact details to record, and a bio to write.
Hosts, real life everyday people were risking themselves and their homes by inviting me, a stranger, in. They had shared the photos of the interiors of where they actually live, along with all sorts of information about themselves, their homes, and their communities. The very least I could do was share a picture of my face with them.
What a privilege it was to be part of it all! We met the most amazing people, and stayed in truly remarkable places, because we put in the effort to be decent guests; making it easier for hosts to accept our bookings.
Those early days trained me to write informative messages to prospective hosts so that they could decide whether or not I would be a good fit for them and their home. Sometimes the answer was yes, sometimes it was no.
To this day, it has never occurred to me to question a host on their decision.
It’s their home.
If they would rather not host me for whatever reason, it is entirely their choice.
I have been declined, and have never held it against a host.
In my experience, back in the early days, I think guests were more respectful-more grateful and appreciative-for the opportunity of travelling this way. I feel as though these days, guests are considerably more entitled, and certainly I’ve wasted numerous messaging hours with those who have no understanding of what Airbnb really is (or originally was).
I’m guessing that these are likely the guests who do not want to spend their time verifying themselves, providing profile photos, reading listings and house rules. There is a profusion of platforms for guests like this. The internet is full of them, they are spoilt for choice. Guests who do not want to participate in the trusting spirit of Airbnb are a poor fit for the platform, and I’m at a loss as to why they are being catered for, especially at the risk of hosts who have helped to build this company from the ground up. I don’t know why this has been allowed to even become an issue.
I genuinely want to believe the best about about Airbnb. Despite the information put forward by the company in these two posts;
I find it difficult to believe that this profile photo policy is about non-discrimination at all. Allowing host profile photos to be seen before booking, but hiding guest profile photos before booking appears blatantly discriminatory to me. Why do I have more rights, more freedoms, as a guest, than I do as a host?
Just some ponderings off the top of my mind. Thanks for reading!
P.S. Fellow ABBers, South Africa is a gloriously beautiful country of rivers, oceans, mountains, valleys, waterfalls, rolling hills, forests, grasslands, deserts, wildlife, and wonderful people. We are so much more than a country-wide crime scene, as often reported in the news. Please come visit!
Everything was has been said soo far and further down is totally, absolutely true. Note, we can see that crucial questions (like starrating of guests visible for hosts) Airbnb just ignores the issue. It's simple : the hosts are the milk cows, the production line. The guest brings in the money, he's the King. Hosts are servants. Actually, I've given up the hope to consider AirBnB as a community spirit aiming company. My experiences with the people I received have been great. That's lucky and fine. But when one day another person arrived than the expected one, and the situationh became very very hard, I was alone in defending myself, and this treachery person was allowed to leave a review! And all this because I didn't have the guts to decline beforehand (not a single response of the guest on my messages) : I just don't dare to "decline" because you get a bad note for that ! But on the guest's side, impoliteness, rudeness, no delay for answering (host are evaluated in the minutes for replying), no photo, there's never a penalty!. And you just cannot decline without beeing negatively evaluated because of absence of answer of the guest.
This all is EXTREMELY frustrating. I don't repeat suggestions I already wrote on the website and discussed with the helpdesk. It doesn't change nothing. Like people expressed on this forum , and on many many other places, it needs just rational and human thinking to have a good equal system. But all is money-making orientated, and AirBnB has become just a hotel bussiness with many "travellers" who expect a 5 sta rluxury hotel for 20E per night, 12 for long term stays. And AirBnB who sends me messages that I'm too expensive: This, I experience as a direct insult and I feel treated like a slave, and I feel bad about it. But, I need some money to be able to stay in my house - otherwise I would accept people from couch surfing or similar. Because, having been a traveller, foreigner at other places myself, the visitors I receive now, they keep the spirit in this old, but beautiful house. Other fellows, keep on going with good thoughts. You'll never know.* Good luck.
*(In Dutch "One can never know how a cow catches a hare").
Amen. This person took the words right out of my mouth. I’ve been feeling increasingly frustrated with what is an absolute maddening disregard for legitimate host concerns on this site over the last couple of years. I, too, have been with AirBnB since the beginning and have fond memories of the very basic protocols that used to be an understood part of the process. I have five listings now on the site. Security is of paramount importance to hosts and should be equally important to you as the platform. None of us have the bandwidth to address the cascade of inquiries we’re now receiving from new users on a daily basis who are not required to so much as view a basic tutorial video and who do not understand how this site works. I understand the challenges behind the company’s rapid growth. But you guys MUST start listening to the individuals who are responsible for that growth. If we continue to feel shut out of a conversation that involves our own safety and income, you can be sure you’re going to start to see an exodus.
Excellent post from Ruth152 in Durban, South Africa
and it really hits the nail on the head with: "Allowing host profile photos to be seen before booking, but hiding guest profile photos before booking appears blatantly discriminatory"