This continues to be a significant topic of conversation because it hits on trust and safety between hosts and guests, which is crucial to our platform and one of our most important commitments to hosts like you. This isn’t something that anyone at Airbnb takes lightly. We read all of your comments on this topic in the Community Center, and we’re committed to addressing your concerns on this topic.
We made this change because we want to make Airbnb a place where anyone can belong. That’s the core mission of Airbnb, and something we’re 100% committed to. Unfortunately, some of our guests today don’t feel as accepted as other guests, and therefore don’t belong.
Many hosts, like Dennis from London, have told us — passionately at times — how supportive they are of the changes. “I’ve had many guests come to me and say, ‘The reason why I chose you [to be my host] is because I knew I would not be rejected because of who I am,’” Dennis said. “And I think it’s really important that Airbnb maintains its position on this.”
However, other hosts expressed concerns about the change because they felt we were taking away helpful pieces of information. We read your comments in the Community Center, we have spoken to you during our trip, and we’re committed to addressing your concerns.
We acknowledge that bias and discrimination—conscious or unconscious—exists in the world and on our platform. Airbnb brings people together virtually and in real life, so we have a responsibility to address these issues and we take that role very seriously. Over the past few years, we’ve tried many different things to reduce the acceptance gap on the platform, and yet nothing we’ve done has had the same magnitude of positive impact as the change to guest profile photo visibility.
And it’s important to clarify: The changes we made didn’t remove guest profile photos from the booking process. What changed is when the guest profile photos become visible to hosts. Rather than seeing the guest’s photo before they book, now guest profile photos will only be visible to you after the booking has been accepted.
Let’s talk about how to make the most of the new process:
We introduced a few important tools and new host controls to increase safety: hosts now have the option to require that all of your guests provide a profile photo. We rolled this out a few months ago, and if you do opt into that control setting, then you will always be able to see a profile photo of your guests before they arrive for their trip. So, you still have the ability to know who it is you’ll be welcoming.
If you’re concerned the photo is fake or doesn’t show their face (but instead shows something like a dog or landscape), you can opt into the new host control, require that your guests provide a profile photo, and call Community Support and request to cancel the reservation penalty-free. (We recommend messaging the guest directly before cancelling, too.)
For additional security, you can require that your guests complete Airbnb's Verified ID process. This means they need to provide a government ID to Airbnb to be able to book your space.
For female hosts and hosts with small children, there is an option to select only women. Right now, the process is a little clunky, but we are working to make it easier and more streamlined. In the meantime, here’s how to do it: in your House Rules, note your preference to host only female guests, and then switch from Instant Book to Request to Book. If you receive a booking request from a male guest who may have missed your House Rules, then you can call Community Support to reject the booking request without penalty.
We are rigorously evaluating all of our options for providing tools and assurances to keep hosts safe, and will continue to update you as we roll out more security features.
“This change set up a difficult tension between ensuring hosts have information about potential guests and ensuring we reduce discrimination on the platform, but I don’t think it’s a zero sum game,” Laura said. “While guest profile pictures are not the best tool for information, it’s one of the few tools that hosts had, so they felt frustrated that it was taken away.”
We know it’s a big deal— the change has highlighted hosts’ desires for more safety controls and better information on guests, and we’re committed to continuing to work on these issues. At the same time, we must do everything in our power to reduce bias and discrimination on the platform.