Skift Take

The plan doesn't actually eliminate cleaning fees. Instead, it's meant to prevent users from seeing an unexpected price jump just before check-out — arguably the more frustrating issue.

Series: Skift Global Forum 2023

Skift Global Forum was held in New York City on September 26-28, 2023. Read coverage of the event at the link below.

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Can Airbnb cleaning fees be eliminated? “Essentially, yes,” said Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky.

Chesky shared more information about the plan for cleaning fees this week at the Skift Global Forum in New York City. 

The company late last year implemented a toggle button at the top of the app’s homepage that reads, “Display total before taxes.” When it’s toggled on, the user sees the total price including fees — not an initial price that then jumps higher right as you’re ready to book it.  

“It’s the first thing you see. It’s larger type than the search box,” Chesky said about the toggle tool.

The company is going to continue pushing that feature. “As far as the guest is concerned, when they turn that toggle on, they’re never going to see a cleaning fee. It’s going to be baked into that nightly rate, just like a hotel without cleaning fees,” Chesky said.

In ranking search results, Airbnb is prioritizing hosts with upfront pricing and no cleaning fees, as opposed to those that might show a low rate only to surprise guests at checkout.

“This upfront pricing model, with ranking the best total nightly [rate], is essentially very close to the perceived elimination of cleaning fees,” Chesky said.

Chesky said last week that hosts for more than 260,000 listings have lowered or removed cleaning fees since Airbnb’s total price display was launched. At that point, there were nearly 3 million listings that did not charge a cleaning fee.

Now, the goal is to train guests to toggle on upfront pricing, which is programmed to maintain its setting, he said.

“When enough American travelers and customers are trained, we would like to just move that to default-on for everyone,” he said.

Chesky did not say that a price cut is coming — just that the total price will be more transparent. There’s a reason Airbnb hosts charge cleaning fees, he said: The cleaning process is the same whether a host rents a room for one day or a month, and it’s often outsourced. 

“We also want hosts to try to pay their cleaners a fair living wage. And it does cost money to get [cleaners] to come to, say, an Airbnb that is a little bit longer commute,” he said.

This push comes along with a pushback in the industry against junk fees, such as a resort fee that many hotels have been charging for the past couple of decades. The sentiment against junk fees does not necessarily include cleaning fees, but there could be regulation about this issue in the U.S. in the future. 

“​​If there’s regulation, then it’s a level playing field. But at this point, it’s not,” Chesky said. “We are choosing to show prices more transparently than others.”

Correction: This story has been updated to correct a quote from Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky. He said the “best total nightly,” not the “best hotel nightly.”

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Tags: airbnb, brian chesky, cleaning fees, junk fees, skift global forum 2023, skift live

Photo credit: Brian Chesky spoke via livestream at the Skift Global Forum. Skift / Skift

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