Skift Take

If all of these Airbnb features work as advertised, then they will benefit hosts and guests — and Airbnb.

Airbnb unveiled its biannual set of product enhancements Wednesday, and much of the attention will surely focus on new badges that identify customers’ favorite homes – “Guest Favorites” – and a tweaked ratings page. But hosts will benefit from several other features as well.

Among them, Airbnb said hosts will be able to create photo tours of their homes “in seconds” that are “powered by a custom-built Airbnb AI engine.” That tech uses some 100 million images to recognize photos and assign them to 19 rooms, according to the company.

Guests want to understand the layout of homes when choosing which ones to book, and this new tool will help hosts to organize them in a snap, the announcement said. There are glitches in any new tech rollout so one safeguard is that hosts will be able to edit their photo tours at any point.

A new Listings tab will enable hosts to offer AI-powered photo tours of their homes, and better descriptions of the properties’ amenities. Source: Airbnb

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Airbnb’s Guest Favorites

Airbnb will stick a Guest Favorites badge on 2 million of its 7 million properties — helping consumers to pick stays based on homes’ ratings. The Guest Favorites rate higher than 4.9 on average, Airbnb said, and reviews and reliability will be taken into account. Consumers will be able to filter searches for Guest Favorites, and Airbnb will display the badge in search results and on listings pages.

“Guest favorites have a superb record of reliability, with host cancellations and quality-rated customer service issues of 1% on average,” the company said.

Reliability in short-term rentals is a hot-button issue. Rival Vrbo as been kicking hosts off its platform who cancel too frequently without valid reasons, and the vacation rental company has been imposing stiff penalties.

Hosts can add smart locks to their Airbnb accounts, and guests will be able to view entry codes in the app. Source: Airbnb

More Tools for Airbnb Hosts

In addition to the ability to create an AI-powered photo tour of their properties, hosts will be able to use about a half-dozen new features, including:

  • A new Listings tab with a redesigned interface to enable hosts to add property details.
  • Smart locks can be integrated with hosts Airbnb accounts, enabling hosts to trigger a unique code for each stay. Guests will be able to retrieve the code from the Airbnb app pre-arrival.
  • More transparency into the total price, including service fees, that guests would have to pay.
  • The ability for hosts to compare their prices with competing listings.
  • A new earnings dashboard to include a detailed accounting of past and future payments.
  • New ways to divvy up payouts with co-hosts, and new methods for hosts and co-hosts to message one another.

Guests will be able to see when a previous guests wrote a review and whether they traveled with family or pets. Source: Airbnb

Airbnb Reviews Get a Makeover

Airbnb is revamping ratings and reviews to make them more guest-friendly, the company said.

Among the changes, guests will be able to sort reviews by when they were written and by the rating score. There will be a chart to depict counts of positive and negative reviews, and there will be more information about the reviewer.

For example, reviews will describe how long the reviewers stayed at the property, where the reviewers are based, and the type of trip they took, including whether they traveled with family, another kind of group trip, or with pets.

Issues to Consider

We didn’t get to try out the new features in advance, but some things to consider:

The Guest Favorites designation may turn out to be a benefit to consumers, but it is also a marketing tool for hosts and Airbnb. More clicks on search results with those badges will likely turn into more bookings for Airbnb. Win, win? If 28% of homes will be designated as guest favorites — 2 million of 7 million homes — how favorite can they be?

Will the AI-powered home photo tours be accurate? You can already imagine the complaints from guests if at times the listing photos don’t reflect the actual property.

Many of these tools for hosts and guests should benefit their experiences with Airbnb. But beyond press announcements, how well will they work in practice? We’ll see.

Does providing more detail on the background of review writers compromise their privacy?

The Timing

There will be a gradual global rollout of many of the new tools and features, including the Guest Favorites designation, the tweaked reviews and ratings, and some of the upgrades for hosts, starting Wednesday, Airbnb said.

Hosts can enroll in Early Access to take these new tools out for a road test.

The smart Lock integration would be available in the U.S. and Canada in Early Access in the next two months. The compare prices and pricing visibility features for hosts are on the agenda for 2024.

Accommodations Sector Stock Index Performance Year-to-Date

What am I looking at? The performance of hotels and short-term rental sector stocks within the ST200. The index includes companies publicly traded across global markets, including international and regional hotel brands, hotel REITs, hotel management companies, alternative accommodations, and timeshares.

The Skift Travel 200 (ST200) combines the financial performance of nearly 200 travel companies worth more than a trillion dollars into a single number. See more hotels and short-term rental financial sector performance.

Read the full methodology behind the Skift Travel 200.

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Tags: airbnb, artificial intelligence, co-hosts, future of lodging, guests, hosts, listings, online travel, online travel newsletter, photos, privacy, reviews, smart locks, ugc, vrbo

Photo credit: A home listed on Airbnb in Brazil that the company designated a guest favorite. Source: Airbnb

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