Airbnb has lot on its plate: suspensions in multiple jurisdictions, incessant regulatory hurdles and more. But when its comes to business focus, the company is growing and paying more keen attention to how it serves the hosts on its platform.
What can we expect from Airbnb? While there’s no timeframe, a marketplace is in the works where hosts might pay to contract cleaning services and the company may implement tax-inclusive pricing in places where it doesn’t do so already.
These were the main themes that emerged from the conversation between Airbnb’s global head of hosting, Catherine Powell, and Skift founder and CEO Rafat Ali at the Future of Lodging Forum 2023 in London on Wednesday.
Powell provided more detail about Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky’s statement in February that Airbnb sees an opportunity in charging hosts for certain services, in addition to offering free products. In March, Skift reported on Airbnb’s delays and paused payments to hosts. At the time Airbnb claimed that out of all host payouts — and Airbnb counts more than four million hosts — “only about 0.1 percent are delayed because of an Airbnb systems issue. Of those, 99 percent are resolved within one week.”
Powell, who came to Airbnb from Disney, recently began gaining firsthand knowledge about hosting, she said, because she began listing her California guesthouse on Airbnb.
On the subject of offering paid services to hosts, Powell said Airbnb is considering offering a marketplace for hosts where they might purchase or contract for things such as cleaners, co-hosts, and other services. Powell said there are over half a million co-hosts on the platform already and that it’s not unimaginable that Airbnb would run a marketplace with vendors offering services to hosts in every market, as well as startups relevant to guest experience. She confirmed that it is something Airbnb is thinking about , and it might be on the cards for next year.
“We have hosts asking us about cleaning services and other things they may or even want to rent,” said Powell.
Taxes and All-Inclusive Pricing
Powell said on stage that Airbnb might include taxes in the all-in pricing that it implemented in the U.S. and certain markets that didn’t already have it last year. When consumers currently opt in to see the total price, the initial glimpse of the price includes the nightly rates, Airbnb’s fees, and cleaning fees, but excludes the taxes.
Prior to that when travelers viewed the pricing on a listing they initially saw the nightly rates, but didn’t view cleaning fees, Airbnb’s fees and taxes so they didn’t have an accurate view of the total price, and often complained about high cleaning fees that they only learned of when it was time to complete the booking. Some hosts, who set the cleaning fees, view it as a profit center.
In a brief Skift interview as she exited the ballroom at the Londoner Hotel Wednesdy, Powell said no decisions have been made but she expects that Airbnb will indeed eventually include taxes in the total price in jurisdictions where it isn’t currently displayed.
In Europe, for example, Airbnb for years has displayed at first glance the total price, including taxes.
In other news, Powell said that professional management companies list properties on Airbnb in certain markets, especially in parts of the world where property managers are more prevalent than others. She also said Airbnb conducts workshops with property managers, presumably to educate them about Airbnb’s mission and best practices.
Separately, Airbnb has suspended hosting of all lodgings in Myanmar as the country has implemented strict laws prohibiting foreign tourists from staying at unregistered guesthouses or hotels. Airbnb is removing listings that haven’t received a permit from the government of Quebec following a fatal fire in Montreal in a building that was located in a section of the city where authorities barred short-term rentals.
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Photo credit: Airbnb Head of Hosting Catherine Powell (left) chatted with Skift founder Rafat Ali about the future of hosting at the Future of Lodging Forum in London on March 29, 2023. Skift