I have been an Airbnb host for many years, but am very concerned to find just now that profile pictures of potential guests are now not being displayed until a booking is confirmed. For me and I am sure many other hosts who welcome guests into our homes it is vitally important to be able to see what a guest is like and make a judgement about their suitability for accommodation within ones home where there may also be children. I am VERY concerned about this decision that seems to encourage 'incognito' travelling, and I cannot continue to offer accommodation unless hosts are able to see a good clear and recognisable profile picture of potential guests BEFORE we accept a new booking.
Withdrawing profile pictures makes selecting our guests a lottery, and takes away from us the ability to exercise choice. This is not what I regard as responsible hosting. I have always valued the vetting process provided by Airbnb but have many times expressed my concern that so many guests seem to seek accommodation with avatar profile images. In my opinion this is an insult to the hospitality offered by hosts. This new decision to hide all profile pictures of guests until after acceptance is not acceptable, because it encourages this incognito invasion of a hosts private home.
This is a huge safety issue for me personally. And I agree with statements above about how it is reverse discrimination that my home and my face are out there for everyone to see, yet I can't see them until I approved them? NOPE, not happening. So I have added to my listing that I must have a recent picture of them and 4 reviews before I accept or approve anyone coming to my home. I host to females ONLY as this is my home that I live in 24/7. I'm glad others recognize the importance of safety even though airbnb doesn't care about us in this safety/discrimination regard. Thank you John for starting the conversation, it is important. - Rhonda
Thank you for responding to my strongly expressed concern about the new policy to exclude from hosts all pertinent information about prospective guests. I have set up a discussion about this matter and it is clear that many other hosts feel as strongly as I do.
I should explain by way of context that I have been an active Airbnb host for several years, and was previously a couchsurfing host. I can honestly say that joining Airbnb was one of the best decisions I ever made. I live in a remote location, within a fantastic mountainous landscape, and I love being able to share this with guests from all over the world. Hosting has been a very great pleasure for me. But the Airbnb offer for hosts does not now provide the same pleasurable experience that it used to be. As a host I no longer feel I am able to offer a welcome to interesting new guests, but rather as a host I am being insulted and abused. Why is this?
Like many hosts I invite people in to my own home with my teenage daughter. I also have three other daughters in their twenties, who live nearby and we remain a strong family. I aim to treat all my Airbnb guests in the same way as I would treat any visiting relative or personal friend. I like my guests to become part of the family - but I make the rule that they do not ever do any washing up or housework! Afteral,they are here whilst on holiday or for their work. Their stay at my house is a time to relax.
I have had excellent reviews often stating how I go out of my way to make every guest's visit a memorable pleasure. A high proportion of my guests have become personal friends and they return often.
I have had two complaints with airbnb. Firstly that some members blatantly do not match their profile descriptions. On one occasion the guest turned out to be a 14 year old boy from Japan who had been sent to me as part of a round Britain trek organised by his parents. Another was a female student who arrived on the membership card of her mother, who I was misled into believing was to stay with me whilst visiting her daughter at a local university. I had to host the student until she found accommodation – well beyond the time that was booked. In both off these events I managed to deal with the issues and got good reviews. But I felt very aware that things could have gone drastically wrong had any incident occurred.
Secondly, I have complained many times about prospective guests who do not post clear and recognisable profile pictures of themselves. For example a penguin in sunglasses, a dog, a crowd of people, or a camera lens. To me it is an insult to the open hospitality offered by hosts if prospective guests seek to hide behind a misleading or inaccurate profile picture.
I then had two further bad experiences where each guest had an 'avatar' picture. I told one guest that they would only be welcome if they appeared exactly as they appear in their profile picture – which in this case I think was a dog. When the guest arrived he had a girlfriend who had not booked, and I insisted that the accommodation was for a single dog. The woman was livid with him for providing misleading information. Another guest with a misleading profile picture contacted me hours before arriving to demand that my family and I must not be present during their stay, as they needed to have the whole house to themselves. I made it clear this was not the terms of the booking and had to endure a great deal of verbal abuse. They did not arrive. However during that weekend we had many other unexpected visitors who had their directions to my house taken from my airbnb profile. I can only assume this was some sort of planned 'pop-up' event.
In these days of internet fraud it is especially important for anyone to be very careful and vigilant. Despite many assurances, I have not been convinced that Airbnb carries out adequate verification of all members, and they certainly do not seem to ensure that all members have an accurate and recognisable profile picture. For me and my family one of the most important things when we invite people into our home is that all guests are properly verified and that they can be recognised easily from their profile picture. This is necessary if we meet our guests from the station or bus terminal, and also if they arrive. Otherwise anyone could turn up at our door and gain access to the whole house. This justifies the cut in the guest fee that goes to Airbnb.
I have read your non-discrimination policy document. The second link you give does not open to a document but pictures about adventures – is this what you intended? I do not see the relevance.
Your policy as it stands could be used by Airbnb when scrutinising new members, so there is no prejudice against any person from joining Airbnb as a host or as a traveller.
Whilst the intention of the non-discrimination policy is well meant, it is woefully inadequate in its design and presentation. What it demonstrates to me is Airbnb's own prejudice against anyone who does not completely share or comply with their own rather stereotyped values. The assumption being made is that all hosts are likely to scrutinise prospective guests solely on the basis of colour, religion, sexuality, gender etc. Whereas in our case it is much more a matter of ensuring reciprocal respect. We open our homes to provide hospitality to our guests and we go out of our way to make each guest experience as good as it possibly can be. As part of this experience I often accompany guests on treks in the mountains or drive them to beaches, historic sites or other events. We reveal our own profile pictures and detailed pictures of our homes, and the surrounding landscape. We expect our guests to provide reciprocal representation about themselves, their expectations and needs - including a good picture.
We also need to plan what we offer to our guests so as to be appropriate to their needs and abilities. We love guests from all parts of the world, and especially Asian, coloured or black people, and especially like to share creating traditional food. But we have had not so good experiences when one couple had a very noisy argument and created atmospheres. Also one gay couple who carried on all night. This is not so nice in a family home.
The assumption being made by Airbnb is that any personal information provided to hosts prior to a booking will be used as a tool to discriminate against the guest for what are currently regarded as socially unacceptable reasons. I say this is not the case at all for hosts who welcome guests into their own households. Because it is a personal service, hosts need to see who they are inviting, and need to gauge how best to meet the guests needs and expectations. The situation may be very different for the impersonal service offered by hotels or whole house lettings.
It seems that by trying to prevent discrimination on grounds of guests race, gender, sexuality etc, you are instead discriminating against the entire hosting community upon whose open generosity the whole business plan of Airbnb relies. It also seems that you fail to follow you own rules, because as stated in the policy the situation is different where hosts invite guests into their own homes where there may be children and other family members.
If Airbnb seeks to be an open and inclusive organisation, then in my view Airbnb should have consulted all those affected by any changes of policy BEFORE implementing them. A fundamental principal of good open democracy is that all people who are affected by any decision should be enabled to take part in that decision making process.
The suggestion I have made several times is that the choice of whether potential host details are required before a booking should be an option made by each host, in the same way that hosts can decide whether or not to allow instant booking.
I feel also that Airbnb should more clearly demonstrate the difference between hosts who offer a flat or a house for full occupation, as opposed to those hosts who offer accommodation within their own homes.
But this whole issue raises for me some much more serious issues about the way we promote business in the world and especially how we all use the internet. (I have a background in design, architecture, business and legal issues). For me the important thing in life is the opportunity to exert our own personal choice, as this is how we all positively shape the world in the future by the choices we make. I want to be able to make my own choices about the way I live, the food I eat, the experiences I have etc. I do not want choices to be made for me or imposed upon me by some gnome in Brussels or some business power with vested interests in making themselves more money or power to control people.
For me the whole Couchsurfing / Airbnb movement has been very important for the way it has challenged the entrenched hospitality market that largely operates through hotels and guest houses, by offering the traveller a much wider range of choice in the accommodation they use whilst exploring the world. Airbnb brought a very welcome breath of fresh air and was also a significant 'kick in the pants' to the established hospitality market.
This aspect of Airbnb is good – that it opens to travellers a much better way to experience places by visiting people's own homes, and meeting local people who love the place where they live and who wish to share their joy with their guests. This way travellers are far better able to savour the culture and landscapes they travel through, and this greatly intensified the traveling experience.
But at the same time we must be on guard and vigilant against people who will and do exploit the generosity and welcome offered by hosts, as in the examples I have given above and also through other horrific stories I have been told by other hosts.
It concerns me very much the way that internet businesses could be shaping the way we all trade and behave. I describe this as the 'muppetisation' process in which the public is increasing being treated as if they are gullible idiots incapable of making their own decisions. They must therefore rely upon decisions being made for them. This is why I voted to leave the EU – because I want to make my own choices about things. It is also why I initially supported Airbnb, for the way it has revolutionised the hospitality industry throughout the whole world.
In my view by attempting to impose a non-discrimination policy on hosts you are creating a contentious 'can of worms'. The very act of trying to impose your values upon others is itself discrimination. It is impossible to police other people's prejudice. There may be very sound and valid reasons why people may wish to be selective about who they extend hospitality to. Being able to make choices is an important part of life. We all make hundreds of choices every day of our lives.
May I suggest that there is a far better way? Instead of forcing people to adopt your own values, it is far better to promote what you believe in by way of example and giving people clear choices. For Airbnb this could be achieved by designing the website so as to give as much choice as possible to prospective hosts and guests, and to make the form of hospitality offer very clear to guests at the outset. For example I suggest that the graphic image used as a pointer on the maps should be different for offers that are hotels, exclusive houses or flats, and for people who are offering home hospitality, and this graphic icon should be used throughout the site like a label. I have suggested four categories, but there may be more. The rules that apply to the booking process could also be different for each type of offer. In the case of family homes the host should be able to make it clear that a thorough verification process must have been completed, and they have at least one clear and recognisable profile picture, of the guest alone – or of the group if they are travelling as a group.
It both staggers and dismays me that Airbnb ever decided to implement this new policy without prior consultation with all those likely to be affected by the decision.
The decision seems more ridiculous when you put the situation in the normal market place....
Can you imagine going to a greengrocers stall where a wide range of beautiful fruits and vegetables are displayed, but when you indicate that you would like to buy certain items the shutters go down and the lights go out and you are handed a paper bag of pre-selected fruit?
Can you imagine a dating site where people can see many enticing profiles, but they have no choice of whom they wish to meet?
What you are doing is taking away the means and opportunity for hosts to offer genuine open hospitality, and are replacing it with a lottery. This concept may be appropriate for impersonal stays at house lettings, hotels and guest houses, but it is not appropriate for those who wish to welcome guests to their own homes. For me this is the crucial part of the Airbnb offer and it is a very great mistake that this vital aspect of the Airbnb experience is being jeopardised.
I am still listed with airbnb, but I am not accepting any new guests unless this matter is addressed. I am also contacting other Airbnb hosts known to me to discover their view on this decision. It is already very clear from the number of people who have written in string terms on this feedback that there is a strong dissatisfaction about the decision.
I hope you will consider this issue carefully and will take the matter to the principal directors of the company. My wish is that the decision will be reversed as quickly as possible and that other means are used to encourage the values that your wish to promote. In my experience battles are never won by imposing force, but much is achieved by setting a good example and changing people's hearts. Most importantly the values promoted by Airbnb should be about creating greater liberty and choice, and should not be about imposing restrictive control or coercion.
It is now a week later and I have received no reply or acknowledgement from Airbnb. It gives me the impression they are not at all interested in responding to people who do not share or submit to their uncompromising view.
I also have written to airbnb and get passed from one "specialist" to another "specialist" about the fact that I am dissatisfied that my profile pic is accessible yet I have to approve someone before I see their profile picture. I am single female who ONLY hosts to other females and I am not about to get dinged for declining someone, anyone that I do not feel comfortable with as I am in a shared property. I share bathrooms, kitchen, living spaces with guests. I am finding it insulting that I can't preview someone coming into MY home. It has been one week and I have yet to hear from anyone substantial about my concerns in this regard. - Rhonda
I have updated my profile now. It may mean that I will lose my Superhost status if I have to cancel bookings but that is a hit I am prepared to take. I am not prepared to sacrifice my own safety. I also finding that I am rejecting more bookings now because of this change and only taking guests who have good reviews.
GUESTS MUST PROVIDE A CLEARLY RECOGNISABLE PHOTOGRAPH OF THEIR FACE IN THEIR PROFILE AND MUST BOOK THROUGH THEIR OWN ACCOUNT. It is important that I recognise you when you arrive at my home. Airbnb no longer allow hosts to check this detail before a booking is confirmed which means that I will have to cancel the booking if your profile doesn't show this. I will do this quickly so that you can look for alternative accommodation.
This is exactly how I am handling this as well. Since I cancelled my last one, I am hardly getting any inquiries on Airbnb. I think my calls and complaints about this issue has my account black listed. However, VRBO has been giving me great renters, and a lot of traffic.
The excerpts below are from an Airbnb blog post, about the important initiatives the company had embarked on to design and build products that would best foster trust, openness and a sense of security between hosts and guests. It was written exactly 3 years ago this week, and profile pics were featured highly. Airbnb is certainly singing a very different tune these days.
"Designing for trust is a well understood topic across the hospitality industry, but Airbnb's effort to democratize hospitality mean we have to rely on trust in an even more dramatic way. Not long ago our friends and families thought we were crazy for believing that someone would let a complete stranger stay in their home. That feeling stemmed from the fact that most of us were raised to fear strangers.
“Stranger danger” is a natural human defense mechanism; overcoming it requires a leap of faith for both guests and hosts. But that’s a leap we can actively support by understanding what trust is, how it works, and how to build products that support it.
We began with the assumption that people are fundamentally good and, with the right tools in place, we could help overcome the stranger-danger bias. To do so, we needed to remove anonymity, giving guests and hosts an identity in our community. We built profile pages where they could upload pictures of themselves, write a description about who they are, link social media accounts, and highlight feedback from past trips. Over time we’ve emphasized these identity pages more and more. Profile pictures, for example, are now mandatory — because they are heavily relied upon. In nearly 50% of trips, guests visit a host’s profile at least once, and 68% of the visits occur in the planning phase that comes before booking. When people are new to Airbnb these profiles are especially useful: compared to experienced guests, first time guests are 20% more likely to visit a host’s profile before booking"
People deceive others often and the reason for so many safety concerns as hosts is in direct contrast with your statement that "people are fundamentally good....." These are our homes so asking for our blind faith is discriminatory when one side of this equation of people (guests) can see the other sides (hosts) profile yet not the other way around.
So let's do this, let's "democratize" this airbnb trust issue by relying on hosts ability to be equitable for their own property to ensure that things like safety are in place. Being a big entity I'm sure that this dramatic way of doing business is uncomfortable for you, yet AirBNB relies on us (hosts) to create profit. So to be really transparent why doesn't AirBNB "rely on trust in an even more dramatic way." By setting up it's own building rather than rely on our (hosts) buildings to do things your way? This is my home, my safety, my profile picture, pictures of my home, that you blantantly telling me I need to "assume" will all be ok.
I will insist on profile pictures be sent to me prior to me approving anyone at the time of any request sent through your domain. This is my home, my person and personal property that I am protecting, and to have you tell me that I have to "approve" them first is not a democratic but dictorial move on AirBNB's part. It is not equitable or fair.
Hi Rhonda I totally agree. How will you ask potential guests to send you their profile picture to you to check? This is a good idea. It is such a serious issue. My bookings have gone down dramaticaly because I just do not feel safe not knowing anything about a person (apart from their name). If I cancel the booking after seeing this information then the penalties are high, not just losing superhost status as I originally thought. I will only take bokings from female guests now aswell. I hope Airbnb begin to realise the knock on consequences this is going to have. I will certainly look for another platform for letting out my room.
I have my listing clearly stated that I will not approve anyone until I receive a private message from them with a profile picture. I have turned off my insta book and when they request my property I ask them to send me a profile picture PRIOR to accepting their request. This way I do not get dinged for canceling a persons trip. I have it set up in the beginning prior to approvals. Do I think I will get less bookings this way? Perhaps, but my safety is more important. I live a very desireable area and do not think my bookings will decrease. I do not rely on this income so therefore, it is not as damaging to me. My safety, regardless of income, is more important than profit. Having said that, I think AirBNB themselves will begin to feel the decrease in income as well....remains to be seen.
I agree Rhonda and so pleased that other hosts feel the same as me. Are we able to pass our private message contact details onto guests without Airbnb blocking this information? Usually if a guest tries to pass on their contact/ social media details it’s removed?