The New Airbnb – Analysis

Yesterday was a pivotal moment in the way that Airbnb operates. Brian Chesky got up on stage and announced a bunch of new features, changes and everything in between. Let’s look at the main points and do an analysis of such so we can better understand the direction that Airbnb are heading in. Without further ado let’s get started and if you want to see the new Airbnb yourself; click here.

New Superhost Benefits

This is a good change but hard to see how it will really benefit superhosts worldwide. One of the main things which was touted was the host store where you can buy Nest products and other items to make the hosting experience even better. The rest of the benefits for superhosts are pretty standard and nothing really too new.

I would argue that the fact that Airbnb is wanting all hosts to buy the same equipment in their homes is going to lead to every home looking the same. When you stay somewhere, you want it to be unique – unfortunately it looks like Airbnb is looking for a way to make every home the same.

Superguest Announced

This makes a ton of sense and is something that I can’t really fault. Some guests on Airbnb are awful, it is sad but the truth. They might smoke in a non smoking apartment, leave every power appliance running when they check out etc etc. Airbnb does nothing to penalize such guests and even removes reviews for guests if they deem them too harsh. This is truly bizarre.

With the superguest program announced it will allow hosts to better vet guests and offer last minute deals to superguests. If you know a guest is going to be of a high standard then you would be open to giving them a last minute discount to fill a listing so I think this is a positive step and a step in the right direction.

Collections and Categories

This was interesting as it will allow people to search a lot more in depth about the types of places they want to stay. I am very interested to see how this will work in reality. There has to be a way for a home to be pushed into more than one category otherwise you will risk getting pigeon holed. The collections for work and family also look super interesting. I do wonder how Airbnb are going to police this though, it won’t be hard for someone to say that their place is great for everything and then it will lead to a suckier experience down the road when they realize it isn’t and the customer support lines which are already bloated won’t cope.

I also question how such categories and collections will work in beachside locations. A lot of the Airbnb announcements seem to be particular focus to the big cities and destinations Airbnb prides itself in being a main player in. The other destinations rarely get a mention.

Airbnb Plus

This is a program that hosts can sign up to and get someone to come and inspect your place. It costs you $149 for the privilege and Airbnb carries out a 100 point checklist and takes photos of your place. Far cry from the times when they would photo your place for free right! Currently operating in 13 cities, this seems a bit bizarre and definitely goes back to my first point in everything becoming standard in Airbnb properties. This will create a bunch of properties with limited character all decorated out the same ways. Can we stop with the lie already that Airbnb hosts are operating in their spare time. I would argue that any property that is Superhost or in Airbnb Plus is a commercial property.

It will be interesting to see how they expand this across the world. I do not think the price for signing up for this is worth it in some of the less developed markets and if people who don’t sign up see bookings drop then the other players in the market will be licking their lips.

Another staggering claim that Airbnb made was to provide people who book with Airbnb Plus premium support. This is a smack in the face to all hosts of Airbnb. Airbnb support is somewhat bloated, unfit for purpose and downright incompetent 90% of the time. Splitting this up so that premium support is available for those who pay get it and those who don’t get left with the incompetence is unacceptable and likely to drive hosts to, TripAdvisor and HomeAway.

Beyond by Airbnb

This was probably the most irrelevant announcement. Airbnb plans to finally put their Luxury Retreats acquisition to work in offering high prestige properties and experiences around them. In practicality I am not sure how this works. If you have a luxury property like the villas that were shown, chances are you are pushing them to multiple websites. Airbnb does not have exclusivity on this inventory and if they want to offer cooking classes and the rest, they better have a revenue share deal with the owner. This is a prime way that owners of such properties increase their bottom line. If Airbnb is saying they are going to take care of this then owners will prioritize bookings from other channels.

This is the announcement I think with the most chance of having issues. Airbnb fails to understand the luxury market continuously and such unhelpful practices of sitting on $1,000’s of dollars of bookings which should be in the owners pocket is unhelpful. The cancelation policies for such would make much luxury property owners squeamish at the thought of listing on Airbnb.

Final Points

Brian Chesky seems to be taking Airbnb in a direction to focus on luxury and high end properties. There was no mention to budget options in the hour long presentation. The issue with budget is something Airbnb doesn’t seem to be willing to address. Budget properties make up a large proportion of the platform. People choose Airbnb because they know it is considered to be cheaper than hotels. This is what the audience wants. This is what the audience gets and unfortunately they penalize hosts for it.

How do they penalize hosts you may ask? Well, the review system. I am sorry to say but a beach bungalow with a fan and no AC with basic amenities is not going to score the same as a treehouse fitted out with the finest equipment and amenities. The treehouse may be $199 a night. The beach bungalow $15 a night. Airbnb reviews works on a 5* system. There is no education about this and so people treat it like hotel reviews. Would you rate a 3* property as 5*? No, of course not. This is something that is frustrating and something which Brian and co continue to ignore.

Airbnb also discount the fact that they are a channel. They are not the channel. People have options and can exercise their rights to use other channels. People do. People book on other channels and have great experiences on other channels. There is no loyalty in travel. If a channel performs better than another, you will be dropped. If Airbnb want to create this divide, I can see many hosts going to existing channels or even a new player rising up.

The play into luxury is going to be super difficult to manage. Luxury properties often have a string of agents working for them so you may even see the same villas appearing 4 or 5 times on Airbnb and other channels, how do they plan to fix this? The guy who owns it is super rich, he doesn’t want to work which is why he is happy to pay his agents. Will Airbnb make a decision on which agents they prefer against others? Let’s wait and see!

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