Just before spring vacation season begins in earnest, Airbnb has introduced a number of features aimed at delivering both renters and hosts a better experience when using the homesharing service. Thanks to the changes, the travel platform, which is in its 10th year and available in nearly 200 countries, is bullish on its future.
The new features were announced last week by Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky at a company media event in San Francisco. The improvements come as the company grapples with challenges from the hotel industry and municipalities that have concerns about what the service does to home values.
Airbnb rolls out inspections, tiered homes and loyalty program
One of the biggest changes for the service are new guaranteed home inspections. Many renters have complained about the conditions inside homes that look pristine in profile pics uploaded on the site but lead to stays that are the stuff of horror stories, leaving the company embarrassed.
Airbnb is now calling on hosts to deliver hotel-like standards of safety, design and cleaniness, including sanitary accommodations and Wi-Fi. For some properties, the company is enlisting an army of inspectors to vouch for everything from at least one-towel-per-guest to the availability of toilet tissue.
The company began notifying users last week about the changes, which were rolled out immediately in some cases, with others set to debut over the next several months. Here are some of the new features in store:
More housing categories: To better appeal to niche customers, the service will introduce four new property categories. They are B&B, Boutiques, Unique and Vacation Home. This quartet will join the previous three dwelling types, Entire Home, Private Home and Shared Space.
Airbnb Collections: The company believes it can upsell its services by combining them with “experiences” that would embellish your stay. “When you book from a Collection, you can expect a highly rated home with all the essentials for the trip you’re taking – from equipped kitchens for families to Wi-Fi and self check-in for work trips.” Current Collections available are the “Work” and “Family” listings.
More Collections titled “Honeymoon,” “Social Stays” “Dinner Party” and “Group Getaway” are on the way.
New tiers: Two new property levels — Airbnb Plus and Beyond by Airbnb — have been added to the mix, as well. Airbnb Plus features properties that have been verified by real people against a 100-point checklist, the company says. About 2,000 homes in 13 cities are available now as part of “a verified selection of high-quality, well-equipped homes,” the company said in an email sent to users.
Coming this spring, the Beyond properties will include palatial estates and mansions that may come with maids, yardmen and other maintenance professionals to give renters the comforts of five-star living in adventurous locals. “Extraordinary homes with full service hospitality,” the promotional literature says. “It’s the start of a complete journey.”
Loyalty programs: To reward partner loyalty, the company is revamping two programs. Later this year it will recognize its top renters through a new membership program called the Superguest program. It is slated to launch as a trial this summer to 10,000 guests before scaling up by the end of the year.
The Superhost program, indicated by a badge on the host’s profile, will easily tell guests which users have the most awesome accommodations and reviews.
While all the details on the company’s new loyalty programs haven’t been spilled yet, experts say they are necessary if the site wants to continue to compete with the likes of Hotel.com and other travel sites.
“The loyalty program will have to be constructed in such a way that someone who’s booking one and two times a year can earn a reward meaningful enough to want to return,” Henry Harteveldt, founder of the travel industry research company Atmosphere Research Group, told USA Today.
While it’s too early to tell whether these changes at Airbnb will equate to meaningful benefits for regular consumers, many of the features seem, on the surface, to add value. But we’ll know more in the coming months. Until then, travel wisely and safely!