In a bid to support hosts and upcoming trends in travel, CEO and co-founder of Airbnb, Brian Chesky has revealed over 50 new product features for the platform. The news was made public via a streamed announcement on November 9th, 2021, and has since been a hot topic of conversation in the vacation rental space.
Given that international travel has now opened up, with the likes of the USA reopening its borders, it seems that Airbnb has timed this move very well. As expected, there’s a lot of noise on the internet regarding this OTA’s Winter Release. So we’ve rounded up some of the upgraded features and tools that are most likely to affect hosts and the way they do business.
Currently, the most talked-about feature of Airbnb’s new upgrades is AirCover. While many may argue that this is the OTAs ploy of recruiting as many hosts as possible, it seems that Airbnb is addressing several key issues here, in the interest of their hosts.
A while ago, the platform recognized that the fear of property damage (and of liability) was preventing hundreds of property owners from hosting. So, in August 2011, it launched the famous $1M Host Guarantee and later added liability insurance, called The Host Protection Insurance.
Since then, other OTAs such as VRBO and booking.com have tried to follow suit. But Airbnb has once again made a bold move in setting themselves apart by replacing Host Guarantee and Host Protection with AirCover. A sleeker, smoother, and perhaps ‘more sympathetic’ way to protect hosts.
Airbnb’s website describes AirCover as ‘top-to-bottom protection for hosts’. It includes $1M host liability insurance, $1M experience liability insurance, and $1M host damage protection, with the now added coverage of pet damage, deep cleaning, and income loss protection.
With AirCover, hosts now have 14 days to report damage (even if they’re booked back-to-back) and Superhosts have access to fast-track support, thanks to a priority support line.
In comparison to its competition, Airbnb’s AirCover seems like the more desirable option as it offers the protection for free to all its users – while platforms such as VRBO continue to charge for the service.
However, despite these added benefits, some hosts have already made their criticisms known, by reiterating that AirCover only protects property owners when they’re hosting an Airbnb Stay or Experience and that it is not a replacement for personal insurance. One such host commented on Reddit:
‘As a host here in NZ (New Zealand), it’s basically useless as I still have to have commercial insurance. AirCover only covers you for the period of time that you have someone staying in your property. As soon as they have gone, you have no insurance. So if you have a house listed on Airbnb and someone breaks in and burns it down between bookings, you’re not covered.’
New Translation Engine
Powered by the technology of industry leader, ModernMT, Airbnb’s new Translation Engine is the most advanced yet, within the vacation rental community.
By clicking on a new translation symbol, hosts can have their property descriptions translated – saving them a huge amount of valuable time and mental energy. While Airbnb has previously offered some translation features, the technology in the new Translation Engine is far more advanced; it will ensure that hosts aren’t ‘missing a trick’ when they upload properties onto the platform in their native language.
This feature can only be found on Airbnb.
This feature determines ‘100% accuracy’ of the accessibility of a particular property.
Hosts are now required to upload photos and document every feature that they claim to have in their property, for the purpose of guest accessibility. These photos must follow a very specific brief, as set by Airbnb – likely with the intention to win the trust of travelers and attract more bookings.
WiFi speed is a key factor when travelers are looking to book an Airbnb stay (it is currently one of the most searched amenities). So, there’s no denying that Airbnb’s new speed test tool will be of great use.
Guests will now be able to ensure that the WiFi in a property listing meets their needs, thanks to the ‘official’ verification. As remote working culture has exploded since the peak of the pandemic, this seems a wise move from the OTA.
The Help Centre on Airbnb outlines how hosts can use the Wifi speed test tool.
I’m (even more) Flexible
Travelers can now search for properties up to 12 months in advance (with flexible dates), as a result of this new upgrade from Airbnb.
While this feature will give guests more options to browse for more unique stays, it’s likely to increase exposure for hosts as well. Particularly those with off-beat properties.
In fact, Airbnb’s new Travel Trends Report shows that one-quarter of Americans would consider traveling during off-peak times; and in 2021 so far, more than one-third of the people searching on this OTA have been flexible in terms of date and location. The platform states that ‘The traditional travel industry was built around fixed destinations, with fixed dates in mind, but that model no longer meets the needs of today’s travelers’.
Hence, we can expect that this upgrade will benefit both guests and Airbnb hosts.
Ask a Superhost Expansion
Getting started on Airbnb can seem like a daunting endeavor for new hosts. Many times, these people have a property (or properties) that they know they want to rent out but are put off by all the learning and Ts and Cs beforehand.
Airbnb’s new Superhost Expansion feature allows new hosts to connect with the famous Superhosts for guidance and advice. This is a clever way of attracting new property owners to the platform, but without the cost of additional time from Airbnb, specifically. The OTA is making excellent use of its community here.
Improved Search Filters
With an increased number of guests looking for specific features and ‘unique stays’ from Airbnb, the platform has decided to roll out improved search filters as one of their new upgrades. These ‘more prominent’ accessibility features are said to make it easy to find stays that cater to a diversity of needs, according to Airbnb’s website.
In just October 2021, TRVLGUIDES published an article about how Airbnb guests can find properties with special features, as it was proving to be a struggle without the right kind of search filters on the OTA. The article can be found here.
This proves that properties with special amenities, including the most popular ones such as swimming pools, gyms, and scenic views, will get a ‘boost’ due to this new upgrade.
Guest Payments History
It will now be easier for hosts to access guest transactions, including refunds, receipts, and more.
This new feature makes Airbnb more ‘user friendly’ for property owners, who will appreciate having these digital documents at their literal fingertips when organizing the back-end operations of their business.
It’s likely that guests will benefit from this new upgrade as well, particularly in the event of an enquiry or complaint – that should need resolving, imminently.
Inline Check-In Details
Guests will appreciate having their check-in information presented alongside their reservation details, making for a smoother customer experience journey, all around. This feature also makes life easier for hosts, who often worry about sending all kinds of important information, after a booking has been made.
As the travel landscape continues to evolve, it’s likely that Airbnb will see an influx of new property hosts joining the platform – particularly after these new updates. The OTA was the target for criticism after the way it dealt with guest cancellations at the peak of the pandemic in 2020; and is now making an active effort to make life easier (and perhaps, more profitable) for hosts, while also considering guest satisfaction.
While some feedback has publicly challenged Chesky’s recent announcement, it’s worth noting that we’ve only summarized a few of the 50-plus upgrades on Airbnb, so there are certainly more benefits in-store.