Your October 2018 Global Host Q&A

Now’s your chance to get answers to hosts’ top-voted questions from the October 2018 Global Host Q&A. You can watch the full video of the event (above) or read summaries of the answers, below. You’ll find updates on everything from one-off bad reviews to pricing. Thanks for submitting and upvoting questions— and for making this such a vibrant community.

To turn on translated subtitles, click the “CC” (Closed Captioning) button underneath the video screen when viewing.

1. Is Airbnb moving away from its original host community?

Absolutely not. Personal-home hosts remain the heart and soul of the company, and Airbnb is committed to helping them succeed. In fact, we’re expanding the Superhost program, and we’re building a team at Airbnb specifically dedicated to supporting personal-home hosts. At the same time, we want to help enable all kinds of hosts to succeed, including professional hosts who offer great hospitality.

To be clear, the term "professional hosts" covers a really wide spectrum—it includes some people hosting in their own home and others managing friends' homes. There are a lot of hotels that aren’t right for Airbnb, and probably never will be. But many of the more traditional hospitality venues on Airbnb look nothing like the hotels many people picture: They are small properties, run by entrepreneurs who want to bring travelers into their communities, create jobs, build a beautiful property, and create magical stays for guests. We’re proud to work with them, and as we do, we’ll continue to make aggressive investments in personal-home hosts, too.

Expanding the type of accommodations we offer will help bring more travelers to Airbnb and bring more bookings to all hosts. Right now, there are millions of potential guests who aren’t coming to Airbnb because they don’t think we offer what they’re looking for. So if you’re a personal-home host, right now, you’re missing out on those potential guests. That’s a problem. Here’s how we’re trying to fix it.

First, we’re working on a range of plans to broaden awareness of Airbnb so that more people know about the homes and experiences we offer and come to Airbnb to book their trip. Second, when potential guests get to our site, we’re making it easier for them to find the kind of accommodations and experiences that work for them. They may come to Airbnb looking for a traditional hospitality venue like a boutique hotel, but they may also discover a personal home that meets their needs. This broadened exposure can benefit all hosts. It will also help set guest expectations. We’re committed to helping guests know what to expect, so that your guests are matched to your home.

Overall, we’re going to continue to do what we can to welcome hosts who provide the kind of hospitality that Airbnb guests have come to expect, and we remain committed to helping those hosts succeed.

2. What is Airbnb doing to better support hosts if things go wrong?

The short answer is: a lot. But before we dive into the exciting changes we’re working on, there’s one important thing to keep in mind: Instances of property damage on Airbnb are quite rare. On average, significant claims of damage happen less than 0.004% of the time. That means you could host a new reservation every day for 63 years and never expect to have to file a significant damage claim.

But unfortunately accidents do happen, and if they do, we want your home and valuables to be protected. That’s why we created safeguards like the Security Deposit and $1 Million Host Guarantee in the first place, and that’s why we’re committed to making sure they work for you.

We’ve heard from you that the process to access these safeguards feels like it takes too long and is too complicated. And that it’s hard to access your Security Deposit or get reimbursed through the Host Guarantee. So we’re completely revamping the process for damage claims to make it more host-friendly. Here are four big changes you can expect.

Now, you’ll have more time. You used to have to report damages within 72 hours after check-out or before your next guest's check-in, whichever was earlier. Now you have 14 days, or before next guest's check-in, whichever is earlier. We’re also going to be giving you a lot more time to complete the claims process— it’s longer than two weeks now.

You don’t have to do as much legwork. We’ve reduced the amount of documentation required for most claims.

You can expect a fair payout. We’re now consistently including sales tax and other associated costs in our reimbursement to hosts.

You can get help faster. The Customer Support team is also making changes to get you better, quicker access to help when you need it—and already, since we’ve introduced these improvements, claim resolution time has decreased by more than 20% in the past few months.

3. Can Airbnb protect hosts from one-off bad reviews?

Reviews are so important. They not only impact the success of your business, they’re also really personal. We know you put a lot of thought and care into your hospitality and that it’s frustrating when you receive a review that’s uncharacteristically low—be it a mistake, a misunderstanding, or an unfair assessment. You’ve raised concerns about this, and we want you to know that we hear you and we’re taking this issue really seriously. We’ve invested and will continue to invest a lot of thought and effort into how we can make the review system more fair.

The good news is, we’re already making a lot of progress. Here are some updates we can share with you now, and we’re committed to keeping you in the loop as we roll out more changes.

At the last Host Q&A, in June, 2018, we said, specifically, that we’d look into outlier reviews. To be clear, one-off low reviews can be considered outliers when a host has otherwise great review scores, but a single guest leaves a bad rating that seems out of place. Here’s a solution we’ve come up with: We’re working on building new tools that will automatically detect when outlier reviews like this occur— and give us an opportunity to correct them. So let’s say a guest gives you five stars for cleanliness, accuracy, check in, and so on— for each of the sub categories— but then a two-star rating overall. The new tool will flag this and prompt the guest to correct the overall rating. We’re developing this new tool now, and you can expect to see it soon.

In addition, we’re doing research to see how a single outlier review can impact a host’s ability to gain or retain Superhost status. The ultimate goal is to find ways to make outliers less impactful for terrific hosts and to make sure the review system is fair.

Finally, we’re looking at the Location rating and how that can affect a host’s overall rating and standing. You’ve told us that you’re frustrated when you get a low rating in the Location category since where your home is located is out of your control. And we hear that.

This is a tricky one. It’s a hard concern to address because judging the quality of a home’s location is so subjective. Some guests may love that your space is off the beaten path; others might be disappointed it’s not closer to public transit. We’re doing a lot of research into how we can continue giving travelers the information they need and want when they’re making booking decisions and, at the same time, make sure hosts aren’t affected by something that’s out of their control.

So we’re looking into new ways to collect and highlight guest impressions of your home’s location information. While we don’t have a concrete announcement on this yet, you can expect to hear more details soon. In the meantime, please know we’re working on this. Keep sending us your feedback on how we can make the review system as fair as possible.

4. What can I do to get more bookings?

We went straight to the source for this answer: We asked guests what they look for in Airbnb stays, and we analyzed their booking behavior to find out what takes them from browsing to booking. It turns out that, after price and reviews, photography is the most important factor. In fact, 60% of listing views start with a guest clicking on a photo, and over 40% of the time when a guest chooses not to book a listing, the last thing they clicked on was a photo. So photos matter, and they should be as good as possible.

Check out our tips for taking great photos using your phone or camera, or if you’re ready to take your listing (and booking success) to the next level, consider professional photography.

We’ve found that pro photography can help your listing stand out and perform better than it otherwise might. Specifically, you can expect a 16% higher probability of being booked and a 26% higher average price per night.

As a lot of you know, Airbnb can connect you with pro photographers in locations around the world. You can request a photoshoot at no cost up front; the service fee will simply be deducted from your future bookings. If Airbnb’s pro-photography service isn’t available in your area, consider hiring a photographer that specializes in interior spaces.

Once you have photos that really do your space justice, it’s time to give potential guests some more context. Great photos need great captions. And guests really do read them. Captions are your opportunity to do two big things: direct potential guests’ attention to the unique and compelling perks of your place and help set expectations. So don’t just show them a pretty bed, tell them how comfy it is. Describe what they can’t see for themselves—that the tiles in the bathroom floor are heated, for instance. This is your chance to help guests imagine themselves in your home.

By taking the time to show and tell travelers how great your place is, you’ll attract more interest. Your attention to detail in your online listing suggests you’ll be a host who cares about the little things that count in person.

5. Can I get more information about potential guests?

It’s important for you to feel comfortable in your own home when you host. And we want to make sure you have the tools, support, and information to do that. We want to balance that with making it easy for guests to book, and also making them feel comfortable. So we’re keeping some information, like a guest’s home address, private.

A number of you mentioned in your questions that you’d like names and ages of all guests who will be staying in your space. For now we’re not requiring guests to provide this, since it can make booking too complicated— and we’ve found that streamlining the process for guests can lead to more bookings for you. But guests do need to tell you the number of people joining their party and they have to follow your House Rules on maximum number of guests. Here’s the other information you can access.

Before you accept a guest’s booking request you can see four things: their first name; a personal message from the guest; the number of people in the party; and their Airbnb profile information, which shows previous reviews by other hosts. If you’d like to know the purpose of their trip or their anticipated check-in/check-out times, before confirming a booking, you can always message with your potential guest to find out.

After you’ve accepted a booking, you can see your guest’s last name.

Finally, Airbnb allows you to require that guests verify their identity before booking with you, which typically involves the guest providing a government ID that we match to a photo of the guest.

6. Can Airbnb provide more data so I can set a more informed price myself?

Yes, we’ve started to do this and will continue to do more. We launched a new feature that shows you more of the data behind our pricing suggestions. Now when you click on a date in your calendar, if the data is available, you’ll see insights that drive our pricing suggestions up or down. For example, you might see how many guests are searching for a listing in your area or how many listings are available compared to the annual average. We hope these insights will help you better understand booking trends in your area and help you set your price with confidence.

7. Can Airbnb stop telling me to lower my price?

While some of you love lots of information and insights, other hosts have told us they don’t need or want all the pricing information we send. So here’s what we’ve done to fix that.

We’ve added feedback links to each pricing email so you can let us know what’s working for you and what’s not. This feedback will inform what we share with you in the future, so you’re only getting messages you want from our team in your inbox.

It’s not possible to turn off recommendations altogether right now, but we are actively working on ways to tailor the amount and type of information you get based on your preferences. Please keep your feedback coming on this topic as we work to make our pricing suggestions even more relevant to you.

8. Can Airbnb make it easier to contact customer service?

Yes, Airbnb’s customer service team has rolled out a lot of improvements this year designed to get you the help you need more easily and quickly. In fact, we call the team Community Support because they are truly focused on making sure your experience with Airbnb is positive. Here’s what you can expect.

We’ve made changes both online (on and in the mobile app) and offline to improve things. Let’s talk about those online changes first. We know some hosts like to call in and get help over the phone, but we’ve heard that it’s been difficult to find the right phone number. Other hosts have said they prefer getting help through our messaging chat system. Three out of every ten requests are coming in through messaging now, in fact, which is wonderful since we know that’s often a more convenient option for busy hosts. The great news here is that we’ve built an entirely new process online so that you can get help in whichever way you prefer more quickly. You can find the right phone number and access the chat system almost immediately.

Now, offline, we’ve made big improvements too. As our community’s really grown in the past few years, we need to make sure we’re available when and where our hosts and guests need us. So we’ve invested a lot in growing the team— in fact, Community Support has tripled in size in the last two years. Now, with more agents, we can help hosts more quickly, in your preferred language. Over our peak holiday season this year, for instance, 80% of all calls were answered in less than a minute. That’s a big improvement from even a year ago. And calling’s not the only option either. Hosts can always take advantage of the chat system, too.

Separately, we’ve also made it even easier for hosts to contact us if there’s ever damage to your property— something that is really rare but does happen, unfortunately. We’ve heard that this process has been suboptimal for hosts in the past, so we’re doing something about it. We’re making changes so we can give urgent cases like these more immediate attention, and more long term, we’ve put together a large new team dedicated to figuring out a better process for hosts to get claims on property damage.

Finally, we’re committed to listening to you to continue to improve. Recently, for example, some French hosts told us that they found it difficult to reach an agent in their native language, so in the past few months, we’ve set up a new Community Support team based in France. We’re doubling down on training quality, in terms of empathy, professionalism, and consistency, and we’ll continue to keep you updated as new improvements roll out.

How questions were selected: The Airbnb team read all 5,800+ questions submitted from hosts and then categorized them into central themes. We shared updates in the Host Q&A for as many of the most upvoted themes as we could. Other questions will be addressed as soon as possible in the host newsletters and Airbnb Answers series.

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