Skift Take

Airbnb has recognized that it needs to bolster the confidence of many travelers that short-term rentals and vacation homes are exactly as advertised. It's taken a big stride in that direction, said Catherine Powell, global head of hosting at the online travel agency.

Airbnb is aiming to address the uncertainty that many travelers feel if they’re still new to booking apartment-style or whole-home stays. This week the online travel agency revamped its search interface to reduce customer worries.

That was the story according to Catherine Powell, global head of hosting, when speaking on Thursday at Skift’s Future of Lodging Forum.

“We just launched a product called Air Cover to guarantee that what you see is what you get,” Powell said. “We want guests to book confidently and trust that what they book is what they’re going to get.”

The company expanded the search categories on its site and app from about 20 to 56. Out of 6 million listings, 4.4 million are categorized, Powell said.

Short-term rentals and vacation homes aren’t typically as consistent as hotel brands. Airbnb’s categorization will go partway to helping Airbnb make its alternative accommodations competitive with hotel stays in the eyes of many consumers, Powell said.

Airbnb saw during the pandemic that consumers searched for flexible stays more than 2 billion times. Some guests had specific requests, such as a desire for amenities such as a pool, a scenic view, or a grand piano. So the new categories aim to help consumers find the properties they want more quickly.

The company uses machine learning to study the titles on listings and the structured data stored in the property’s photography. Its employees also perform spot checks, Powell said.

Other Product Tests Ingoing

Airbnb has also been testing ways to be more transparent about total pricing upfront in its search results, given the variation in fees for housekeeping and service, Powell said.

Last year, the company introduced a program where superhosts can mentor others through workshops to improve the experience. The company is planning to revive its large in-person gatherings of hosts.

“Our CFO [chief financial officer] is aware of the potential [of paid listings],” Powell said. “But it’s not on the roadmap.”

Hiring isn’t a problem for the company. When Airbnb recently announced it had permanently adopted a flexible workplace policy, its career listings pages received 800,000 views, compared to a current employee base of 6,000. Powell plans to personally take advantage of the policy by living in different U.S. states. For more on Airbnb’s changes, see Skift’s earlier coverage.

Tags: airbnb, future of lodging, skift live

Photo credit: Catherine Powell of Airbnb speaks at Skift Future of Lodging Summit. Source: Skift.