Airbnb creates a new category for room rentals

NEW YORK — Airbnb is stressing affordability and human connection with a repositioning of its inventory of individual rooms, relaunching that part of its business as Airbnb Rooms.

At a media event here on Tuesday, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky unveiled the Airbnb Rooms category, which features a curated selection of more than one million private rooms as well as a new “Host Passport” feature designed to help a user get to know their prospective host. Airbnb Rooms generally include access to shared spaces such as a kitchen, living room or backyard.

According to Airbnb, more than 80% of the platform’s private rooms are priced at under $100 per night, with an average rate of $67 per night.

“Staying with a host is often more affordable than a hotel,” Chesky told attendees. “In the last year, obviously, inflation has skyrocketed, and travel cost has risen. We started as an affordable alternative to hotels, because we started in 2008 during the Great Recession, and so, we think affordability is key.”

Chesky also played up the appeal of sharing a home with a host, suggesting that the concept is now more relevant than ever as the world grapples with a loneliness epidemic.   

“It’s been proven that being chronically lonely is equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, which can shorten your lifespan by as much as 15 years,” said Chesky. “We’re not here to solve that problem, but if we can take a small part in trying to help bring people together, I mean, that was really the core ideology of Airbnb.”

An option to show the total price

Along with the debut of the Airbnb Rooms category, Chesky said Airbnb is in the midst of rolling out more than 50 new features and upgrades, which marks the platform’s “most extensive set of improvements” ever made. 

Chief among the changes is a fix for customer complaints around excessive fees, including cleaning fees, which have previously not been baked into a listing’s advertised price. As part of Airbnb’s latest refresh, a new total price display tool, which can be toggled on during the search process, will now be available across the platform. 

“The number one complaint when booking is the pricing,” said Chesky. “They say they want transparent pricing, and that was top of the list.”

Airbnb has also made it easier for travelers to book longer-term stays, launching a new booking tool allowing guests to filter for accommodations available for stays ranging from one month to a year. Chesky told attendees that around 20% of Airbnb’s bookings are for stays lasting longer than a month. 

To improve the affordability of longer-term stays, Airbnb will allow guests to pay in monthly installments, much like one would pay a landlord, and fees associated with a longer-term booking will start to drop for stays of four months or more.

On the customer-service front, Airbnb is pledging to expedite customer-service calls for travelers who are currently on a trip.

“Now, when you call us on a trip, 90% of calls will be answered in two minutes or less,” said Chesky. “We’re starting for calls in English. But we’re expanding this globally over the course of the year.”

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