Skift Take

Airbnb has responded to years'-long criticism about a lack of transparency in the way it displays its prices. Now, will competitors do likewise?

Bowing to criticism about surprise fees that potential guests encounter late in the booking process, Airbnb announced Monday that starting next month it will begin displaying the total price of a stay before taxes, but including its own fees and hosts’ cleaning charges, at the very beginning of the search process.

In many parts of the world, Airbnb listings initially show the nightly rate only without the taxes and fees. So a 5-night stay might initially quote a rate of $1,195 per night ($5,974 for five nights), but only on the next screen would guests learn of a $199 cleaning fee and an $871 service fee for a total rate of $7,044, for example.

Guests for years have taken to social media to vehemently complain that some hosts set exorbitant cleaning fees, and that Airbnb’s existing practice of merely displaying the nightly rate lacked transparency and could be very misleading in terms of the final price.

Airbnb has already shown the total price of a stay up front in Europe for some time at the demand of regulators.

The changes announced Monday would also impact where listings fall into Airbnb’s sort order, CEO Brian Chesky announced on Twitter about the series of changes.

“The highest quality homes with the best total prices will rank higher in search results,” Chesky tweeted.

He added about the tweaks to where listings fall in Airbnb’s rankings, Chesky tweeted: “We started as an affordable alternative to hotels, and affordability is especially important today. During this difficult economic time, we need to help our Hosts provide great value to you.”

In addition to displaying the total price, excluding taxes in search results, Airbnb starting next month will also show that total price before taxes in its maps, price filter, and listings, Chesky tweeted.

Guests would also be able to view the pricing breakdown, including service fees, discounts and taxes, Chesky tweeted.

Asked on Twitter why Airbnb would not be showing the total price including taxes in the initial display, Chesky tweeted: “Our thinking was that since prices in the US are typically displayed pre-tax, that we should go with this convention. Do you think it should be after tax?”

Airbnb has received plenty of negative press about the chores that some hosts force guests to carry out as part of the checkout process — and many of these are disclosed until the guest arrives for a stay.

Chesky tweeted that some host-ordered checkout tasks are reasonable, such as turning off the lights, and dumping the garbage, but Airbnb will draw a line.

“You shouldn’t have to do unreasonable tasks, such as stripping beds, doing the laundry, or vacuuming,” he tweeted.

Hosts would be required to disclose checkout tasks up-front, Chesky tweeted.

Chesky also revealed that new tools would be coming for hosts to help them establish more competitive pricing and discounting tools. “Hosts told us they’d like our help to better understand the final price guests pay and what price to charge to stay competitive,” Chesky tweeted.

The details about all the changes will undoubtably follow as they are implemented. For now, at least, it doesn’t appear that Airbnb has limited hosts’ ability to set cleaning fees, which some have viewed as a way to wrangle higher profits on a stay.

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Tags: airbnb, brian chesky, fees, future of lodging, guests, hosts, online travel newsletter, pricing

Photo credit: Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky (left) spoke with Skift founder Rafat Ali at Skift Global Forum in Manhattan November 21, 2022. Airbnb will show the total price up-font.

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