Your April 2019 Host Q&A

Location ratings in guest reviews, hosting fees, and guest profile photos are just some of the hot topics covered at Host Q&A events in Tokyo, Sydney, Rome, London, and Toronto in April. Didn’t make it to one of these events? You can catch up on everything you missed right here!

  1. Read summaries of the top six questions and answers, below.
  2. Watch video clips of great conversations between hosts and Airbnb teammates, below.
  3. Get behind-the-scenes highlights from the Airbnb team’s global listening tour, led by Laura Chambers, head of the Homes Host team, here.

We’re already planning more listening sessions with hosts in cities around the world. Stay tuned to Airbnb Updates to get the latest. For now, read on for highlights of the April 2019 Host Q&A. To turn on translated subtitles, click the “CC” (Closed Captioning) button underneath the video screen when viewing.

1. Host commitment: What are Airbnb’s top priorities this year? What can hosts expect?

Airbnb’s core host community is the backbone of our business and the reason why we can provide magical experiences to guests. Over the years, we’ve made many changes and updates that have impacted your business in various ways. “Our founder, CEO, and head of Community Brian Chesky wants to make sure our core hosts are taken care of and our employees are incredibly focused on our core host community, especially as we begin to welcome other types of properties such as boutique hotels,” said Laura Chambers, general manager of Homes Host. This is why her role was created, she explained, and why she has a team of about 100 people who work with her every day to make the host experience a smoother, more successful, and more enjoyable one. This year, she says, we want to make a clear, simple commitment to our hosts: We’re committed to empowering our hosts to be successful by providing information, education, and tools so you can get the bookings you need to reach your individual hosting goals.

We also want to keep hosts and your homes safe, and to support you. Hosts have also told us that you want our policies to be equally fair to guests and hosts. We are committed to minimizing the instances of things going wrong. And, in the rare case that they do, it’s our job to ensure that Airbnb has your back.

Our final commitment is to continue to build community, by helping hosts connect to each other, and helping hosts connect to Airbnb.

2. Guest profile photos: Guest profile photos are no longer visible before booking—will there be any changes to this in the future?

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.

3. Location ratings: Location reviews seem to depend on a guest’s opinion, rather than a standard of service. Plus, a great location for one guest may not work for another guest. Does Airbnb have any plans to rephrase the location category in reviews?

Yes! In fact, we recently published a blog post recapping the improvements we’ve made to the review system, to make good on a promise we made to you at the last Host Q&A, in October, when another host raised a similar question.

Before we dive into the updates we’ve made, it’s important to clarify that the location category rating doesn’t impact your overall rating (or Superhost eligibility). That being said, we still know it’s important to you, and we want to make sure the whole system is as fair as possible. We’ve heard from you that the location rating can be particularly frustrating because some of you have had guests ding you in this category, unexpectedly, after great stays.

This category is tricky. It gives valuable information to prospective travelers, which we don’t want to lose. At the same time, we hear your concern that you’re being graded for something you can’t control: guests’ opinion of your location. This opinion is inherently subjective—one person’s “rustic rural retreat” may be another’s “too far from public transportation.” So we made it more clear in the review process that guests are rating the accuracy of your location description, rather than the location itself. Now, when a guest rates you in the location category, if they give you three stars or fewer, they’ll see an additional question: “Was the listing’s location not described accurately?” So far, this change has led to a 0.8% increase in the average rating for location. While this may sound small, it’s a meaningful and positive change for hosts’ location reviews overall.

While we were working on this improvement for the location rating, we also made similar changes to the value category. Now, if a guest gives you three stars or fewer in the value category, they’ll see this message: “What would have made this listing a better value?” This has led to a 0.25% increase in the average rating for value.

These changes were designed to begin to address your concerns around unfair or misleading reviews, and to help make sure that guests understand what these ratings mean. We still have a long journey ahead of us to keep making the review system better, and you’ll continue to see updates from us on this throughout the year.

4. Hosting fees: What does Airbnb do with the hosting fees it collects?

You probably know that as a host you’re charged a service fee whenever a booking or Experience is confirmed. For home hosts, the fee amount is usually 3% (it may be higher for hosts in certain areas or hosts who have a Super Strict Cancellation Policy), and for Experience hosts, it’s 20%. Guests are also usually charged a service fee when they book on Airbnb. So what exactly happens to the money that’s collected? It’s invested into three big categories—community support, marketing, and product development—to help support you as an entrepreneur and host.

Let’s start with Community Support. One of our top priorities is making sure we can help if you ever have questions or concerns. As we mentioned at our last Host Q&A event, we're investing a ton of resources into our Community Support team. In the past year, for instance, we built a new process online so that you can get assistance in whichever way you prefer—our online chat system or on the phone—more quickly. Now you can find the right phone number and access the chat system almost immediately. In the last few years, we’ve tripled the size of the Community Support team to help you get answers more quickly, and in your preferred language. (And it’s helped: over our peak holiday season this past year, for instance, 80% of calls were answered in less than one minute; and this year, we’re committed to improve this even more.) And finally, we’ve improved our escalation process to make sure that, if you ever contact us after there’s been damage to your property, we address your issue even quicker.

Next is marketing, which helps Airbnb stay top of mind for travelers when they’re looking for places to stay and things to do—and, ultimately, help bring you more guests. We focus mainly on three types of marketing. First, we invest in traditional advertising, which includes TV ads, billboards, and digital channels. Some of this is tailored to specific markets such as Mexico and Brazil, where we’ve had major ad campaigns this year, with more rolling out around the world later this year. Second, we invest in online marketing. We have close partnerships with Facebook, Google, the iTunes app store, and other digital platforms to ensure that Airbnb has a strong presence in the places where our guests and other travelers are spending time online. It’s crucial that Airbnb—and your listings—show up high in search results when travelers are looking to book trips and that’s why we’re devoting resources here.

We’re also investing in driving demand and additional bookings to you through our website, mobile app, and email campaigns. On the website and in the app, we create travel-inspiration articles and collections of listings travelers search for frequently, such as beachfront properties. We also send booking reminder emails when guests have been searching for a place to stay but haven’t booked yet.

And finally, we’re investing in product development. Airbnb employs thousands of engineers who build the tools and infrastructure that power your business. This includes everything from the app and payment system to the Airbnb platform itself. It’s their job to keep Airbnb operational and constantly improving. Many of the products we’re building are designed specifically to make it easier for you to host and succeed. A recent example is the newly redesigned Guidebooks feature. It helps hosts give guests local recommendations and create a more welcoming, memorable experience overall.

5. Airbnb Plus: How do hosts get featured on Airbnb Plus? And what are the benefits?

The key difference for Plus homes is that they are personally and individually inspected against a list of criteria. It’s a highly manual and very new process for us here at Airbnb, and we’re continuing to work on improving it. The number of Plus listings on Airbnb is still very small comparatively, and it’s not yet available in all markets given the local resources required for inspections and photography.

To be a part of Airbnb Plus, hosts must meet Superhost-level hospitality standards, and homes must meet a checklist of requirements. An Airbnb partner will visit your home and go through the list with you, and you will receive interior design suggestions as part of the onboarding process.

As far as your space, your home must be thoughtfully designed (welcoming and one-of-a-kind, with furniture and design details that add character to your space), well-equipped (provides all the essential amenities so guests can make the most of their stay), and well-maintained (clean, functional, and kept in consistently great condition).

One of the current benefits of being featured in Airbnb Plus is that your home will receive elevated placement and be placed in a separate category. You’ll also get an all-new design and layout for your listing page; professional photography to highlight your home’s best features; and an immersive photo home tour so guests can better visualize your space. Also, you get support and resources just for Plus hosts, including home-styling & design tips, educational videos (decorating), and premium customer support.

6. Connecting homes and Experience hosting: What’s the best way for home hosts to link up with Experiences in their area? And how can home and Experience hosts offer both as a package deal?

Airbnb Experiences is growing fast, and there are lots of hosts asking questions like these, so it’s something we are working on. “Package deals” won’t be immediately available, but there are a few things we are doing to bring homes and Experiences hosting closer together.

First, as you probably know, both Experiences and home listings show up on your user profile page, so if you’re both a home and Experience host, you can show the Airbnb community that you offer both. You can also write a saved message that you can send to guests once they book your home that promotes your Experience. Finally, if you’re a home host interested in promoting local Experiences offered by other hosts, you can connect with hosts in your area through local hosting groups and here on the Community Center.

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