Airbnb Debuts a Private Rooms Category With New Privacy Features for Shared Stays

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Skift Take

Airbnb improves on more privacy, price transparency and host engagement as part of its annual summer release upgrades.

If this turns out to be the summer of travel, as touted, Airbnb is ready for it.

Ahead of its first quarter earnings next week, the company introduced 50 new features and upgrades as part of its annual summer release.

At the center of new upgrades and features is Airbnb Rooms, which the company characterizes as “an all-new take on the original Airbnb.” There is now a rooms category with over 1 million listings, redesigned filters and added new privacy and other features — such as host passports, which help guests get to know their host before booking their stay. Guests can click on the passport to view a larger photo and details hosts have shared about themselves, including where they went to school, what they do for work, a fun fact about themselves, and the amount of social interaction that can be expected during the stay. 

Among other highlights of the announcement, Airbnb emphasized its total price display (excluding taxes in markets such as the U.S.), discounts on longer stays, the ability to pay over time, and improvements to privacy and the shared home experience. There will also be discounts for guests who pay for a stay directly from their bank accounts.

“Millions of people have given us feedback on how to improve Airbnb. We’ve listened,” said Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky in the announcement. “Today, we’re introducing the most extensive set of updates ever. Our design-driven approach means we’re always making Airbnb better, and our over 50 new features and upgrades are just the beginning. We will never stop improving Airbnb.”

Airbnb Rooms is the central part of the new features.

“With Airbnb Rooms, we’re getting back to the idea that started it all — back to our founding ethos of sharing,” said Chesky.

The new category is designed for easy discovery, featuring a curated set of 1 million private bedrooms. Each listing will include access to shared spaces, such as the kitchen, living room, and backyard. There are also advanced privacy features specifying if bathrooms are private and if the door has a lock and the other people guests will be sharing the space with during the stay. 

Airbnb has long offered shared spaces, but today’s announcement gives them more primacy, and more revenue potential. Private rooms also benefit Airbnb and guests in markets that ban short-term rentals when the host isn’t present.

Guest Experience

Airbnb’s Global Head of Hosting Catherine Powell discussed the total price display feature at Skift’s Future of Lodging summit in March. “We’ve introduced an all-inclusive price. It doesn’t include tax yet. We might do that so that guests can understand exactly what this trip is going to cost,” Powell said. “Because it’s incredibly frustrating when you find all these fees that you’re not expecting afterwards.”

The upgrade will include total price display, so guests can view the total price with fees, before taxes, across the entire app including in search results, price filter, maps, and listing pages. In some markets, such as Europe, Airbnb has displayed the total price upfront — including taxes — for several years.

It is also meant to help hosts price better. “We’re helping our hosts understand how to set the price that the guests will pay,” Powell said. “What we’ve heard from the host is they say, well, they set what they want and they don’t realize necessarily what the guest is going to end up paying. And now we have a tool where they can really manage that. And I think that’s going to help them be more competitive as well.”

Airbnb continues to serve the pandemic and post-pandemic travel patterns, including guests who prefer longer stays. There is now a “months” tab to look for hosts accommodating longer-term guests.  For stays over three months, the guest service fee after the third month will be reduced. Additionally, guests in the U.S. can pay by linking their bank account to avoid the credit card fees that Airbnb passes along to guests.

The company has partnered with payment company Klarna to enable guests in the U.S. and Canada to pay in four interest-free installments over six weeks for bookings over $500. The company will add more countries to this feature throughout the year, Airbnb said.

The company is set to announce first quarter 2023 financial results on Tuesday, May 9. 

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