Airbnb’s New Release – Everything Hosts Need to Know
In last week’s big announcement, Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO of Airbnb, walked us through the new Airbnb updates ahead of the anticipated, busy summer travel season. In an Apple-esque video featuring Chesky and his golden retriever, Sophie, he reveals the details of Airbnb’s “biggest change in a decade,” primarily staged at a large wooden table in the open living area of a modern, coastal Airbnb rental. The scene reflects the vibe of the new kind of traveler – the untethered digital nomad, settling into unique, temporary destinations as a mix between work and vacation (AKA: a flexcation).
The handful of updates includes a new, flexible search, based on housing category (including style, location, amenities and nearby activities); a split stay option, which allows guests seeking longer stays to split their time between multiple, similar rentals; and AirCover guest travel insurance. There is no question that this release is focused on enhancements to the guest experience, with the aim to reinstill inspiration, adventure and confidence into the travel experience.
So, what about the hosts? In this post, we will dive into these features with a focus on how they will impact short-term rental hosts and discuss what hosts can do to optimize their booking and hosting strategy in light of the updates.
Airbnb’s Category Search
Hop on to the Airbnb homepage and you will now be greeted with the welcome, “Introducing the new Airbnb”, which Chesky designates in his video as “A new Airbnb, for a new world of travel.“ Based on the updates, this new world of Airbnb is crafted for a traveler that seeks to explore new places, stay for a while and feel confident, safe and secure.
Breaking through the limitations of location and time, users are encouraged to think out of the box and search according to the type of stay or experience they want to have – which can be a huge benefit for hosts in less popular locations. The new category search groups collections of homes that are organized by what makes them unique.
Users can start their search by the region they want to visit or by directly selecting a category, which includes a large variety of options, from style (tiny homes, bed and breakfast, cabins, castles), location (beach, countryside, iconic cities, islands) or particular amenities or activities (amazing views, skiing, grand pianos, pools, or chef’s kitchens). In fact there are currently over 50 categories to choose from, with plans to add many more.
In a note to Airbnb hosts, Chesky states how this new search can benefit them by creating new ways to discover their listings:
“Starting today, we’re making it easier than ever for people to discover your homes with Airbnb Categories. Now when guests open Airbnb, they’ll immediately see over 50 categories with 4 million homes that showcase the things that make your properties great—including their style and amenities; location; and nearby activities like golfing, surfing, and skiing.
Even if guests search for a specific destination, we’ll show them categories with additional homes they may never have found. We’ll add even more categories over time, because we believe there could be a category for every home and every Host…”
So how does this impact Airbnb’s short-term rental search and what should Airbnb hosts be doing to get seen and booked under these new search terms?
Understanding Airbnb’s Search Engine
All Airbnb listings are evaluated using machine learning which analyzes all of the information hosts provide about their property including, titles, descriptions, photos, captions, amenities, additional details, and reviews. Your goal as a host is to ensure you are giving those machines the most thorough and accurate information about your listing so it will show up in all relevant categories. Here are a few things to check on your listing to ensure it’s optimized for this new type of search:
Check the Details:
Now is the time to reevaluate your listing with the new search categories in mind, to ensure that it’s as complete, accurate, and up to date as possible (check out this article to make sure your listing is optimized for Airbnb search). Be sure to update any new amenities you’ve recently added and include any and all details that could get picked up by the search engines. Highlight unique features such as proximity to local tourist destinations and distinctive home design in your settings and include key terms in your title.
Upgrade Photo Content & Quality:
As always, the quality of your photos is an important factor in your ranking in search results, so make sure your images are up to par. Equally important is the content of your photos. Include photos that show how your listing represents any category that it might qualify for (show the local beachfront, grand piano or images from the nearby national park), and that attract and inspire travelers to visit your property and its surroundings. Great pictures with enticing content will tend to land higher in the category rankings. Here are some tips for taking photos that attract bookings to your listing.
Spruce Up Your Description:
Your short-term rental description is your chance to tell Airbnb’s search bots (and of course your potential guests) everything you want them to know about your property. Ensure that you mention all relevant keywords in your description so your listing will stand out and be picked up by the algorithm that curates the categories. It’s a good idea to try to go through the list of categories every once in a while to check for any additions that Airbnb may have added.
As always, listings will continue to be ranked according to price, quality and ratings/reviews, so you still want to emphasize competitive pricing and providing top quality experiences for your guests. For more tips on upping your hosting game, check out this article about becoming a 5-star Airbnb host.
Airbnb’s Split Stays
Airbnb’s Split Stay results are suggested by an innovative search feature that offers solutions for travelers seeking longer stays. These options combine two listings to complete a trip when one listing isn’t available for the entire time frame being requested, and appear automatically within the search results whenever a guest searches for a trip of one week or longer. The listings will be intelligently paired to satisfy the same search criteria including location, property type and amenities. According to Airbnb, this option results in up to 40% more listings found during any search of 14 nights or more.
This feature benefits hosts because their listing can now show up as an option in relevant search results even if they do not have all of the requested nights available.
What Hosts Need to Know:
In order to be included in the Split Stays results, your listing needs to have a minimum of three nights of availability. Therefore, it’s wise to arrange your calendar in such a way that you have longer stays available, including a maximum length of stay of at least seven nights.
Additionally, if you want to attract guests seeking longer stays, you need to provide amenities that are conducive to remote working, such as a quiet workspace with plenty of electrical hookups and reliable and fast Wifi, a laundry machine and a fully equipped kitchen.
AirCover For Guests
Following the AirCover for hosts coverage that was released in November, AirCover for guests is now available for free to all guests during their stay. These protections include booking and check-in guarantees (in cases where hosts cancel or there are problems with check-in, Airbnb will find a similar or better home or refund guests, if issues can’t be resolved) as well as a 24-hour safety hotline. Additionally, they have instituted a Get-What-You-Booked Guarantee which has caused some concern amongst hosts. This guarantees that if during their stay, a guest finds that your property fails to provide what is advertised (and the issue can’t be resolved), and reports it within three days, Airbnb will find them a replacement home or refund them.
What Hosts Need to Know:
The take-away here for hosts is how important it is to be responsive to your guests and to make themselves available and proactive in resolving any issues or concerns they may have. Although Airbnb will cover costs to reimburse guests for needing to rehome them, clearly these issues can lead to poor reviews, which can ruin your reputation and lead to less bookings.
As some hosts have expressed concern that the Get-what-you-booked guarantee will open doors to fraudulent claims by guests seeking a refund, hosts can take steps to prevent this by setting accurate expectations and being completely transparent in their listing details and photos. It’s also a good idea to screen guests prior to accepting reservations to prevent issues whenever possible.
It remains to be seen how this latest Airbnb update will impact hosts across the spectrum, but there are many steps you can take to maximize your listing and create a fantastic experience for your guests. Want to see how Guesty For Hosts can make your short-term rental management easier and less time-consuming? Get started in just minutes with a 14-day free trial.