Airbnb goes back to basics with a fresh approach to private room rentals

Airbnb is going back to its roots, the company announced, with a renewed focus on renting out individual rooms to travelers concerned about rising costs of living.

Branded Airbnb Rooms, the short-term rental app will launch a range of features designed to encourage travelers to consider renting out a single room in a home to save money and have new experiences on the go.

Travelers will be able to specifically search for private rooms and see how much they would save by renting an entire apartment or house, and a new set of filters will let them see only rooms with private bathrooms. The company will also point out which private rooms do not have an internal or external lock, allowing guests to ensure they have a minimum level of privacy before booking.

“One of the things that we know is on people’s minds is inflation and the possibility of a recession,” said Nate Blecharczyk, the company’s co-founder. “And so money really matters. We believe that Private Rooms is a very compelling value proposition and the time is right to rediscover and relaunch this category.”

The average price of an Airbnb room in the UK is £59 a night, says Blecharczyk, and worldwide, more than 80% of private room stays were under $100 (£80) a night. .

“Airbnb has something for everyone: all prices, all locations, all configurations,” he added. “Now you can toggle between looking at rooms in houses, you can see the value proposition change dramatically. It’s very clear.

The shift in focus marks a return to basics for the company, which began in 2007 when roommates Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia began renting space on air mattresses in their San Francisco living room. Blecharczyk joined in 2008 when the one-bedroom B&B became a full-fledged venture, offering to match people who needed a hotel room with those who had a spare room and needed extra cash. By 2009, it had expanded from airbeds and shared spaces to entire properties, which gradually came to dominate listings on the platform.

Along with the launch of private rooms, Airbnb is also rolling out a suite of features to address viral criticism of the experience of paying rent on the service. In late 2022, social media users shared experiences and jokes about being asked by their hosts to perform increasingly ridiculous tasks, from vacuuming carpets to walking the dog, as part of their checkout routine.

While many of the jokes were fanciful, Chesky accepted the basis of the criticism in November, writing: “You shouldn’t have to do unreasonable checkout tasks like stripping beds, doing laundry, or vacuuming.

“But we think it’s reasonable to turn off the lights, throw away food and lock doors, just as you would when leaving your own home.”

Airbnb will now funnel host requests through a more standard set of checkboxes, making it easier for them to request common payment actions, like putting bins outside or returning keys, and dissuading them from adding more esoteric requests.

Those rules, a spokesperson said, would be “clearly displayed on the listing page before a guest books a listing. Guests are also reminded of listing payment instructions the day before departure, and listings with repeated low ratings from unreasonable tasks will be removed from Airbnb.”

The return to promoting private rooms could also help Airbnb respond to criticism about its broader impact on cities and resort areas around the world. As entire home rentals soared, the company found itself at the center of disputes over gentrification, overtourism and housing shortages, with residents of popular vacation destinations accusing landlords of taking homes off the market. rent to profit from tourists. instead.

Unveiling plans to change the holiday letting law, which requires homeowners across England to obtain planning permission to convert their houses to short-term rentals, housing secretary Michael Gove said: “I am determined to make sure we that more people have access to housing. at affordable prices and that we prioritize families desperate to rent or buy their own home close to where they work.”

Responding to a Welsh government inquiry last month, Airbnb cited research suggesting that tourists who used the site contributed £107 million to the Welsh economy in 2019, the equivalent of 0.2% of Wales’ gross domestic product. . The company supported plans for a short-stay landlord registration scheme, arguing the requirement would help address “a lack of accurate data” on the effects of the rig within specific communities in Wales.

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