Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said today that the company is refining its search to show the total price, inclusive of fees — like the increasingly controversial cleaning fees — in the search results. The company will roll out this feature through a toggle next month and will also prioritize the total charges (before taxes) for your trip instead of the nightly price in its search ranking algorithm.
That means the best total prices will rank higher in the Airbnb search results alongside similar listings for the area.
Chesky noted that once users turn on the toggle, they’ll see the total price in search results, map listings, price filters and listing pages. Plus, users will be clearly able to see a breakdown of Airbnb’s own service fee, plus discounts and taxes for the property and the trip.
It’s not clear why the company is making the price inclusive of all fees an opt-in experience through a toggle rather than making it the default search parameter, but this is likely because not showing the total price makes the booking look more affordable.
The company is making these changes as customer complaints about cleaning fees and other hidden charges have grown recently. A report published by Nerdwallet in June surveying 1,000 U.S. rental properties on Airbnb said that 34% of listings had a cleaning fee in the 20-30% range of the base fee. Airbnb published a blog post in May 2021 which asserted that the company transparently displays all fees on all listings. But the post also promised that Catherine Powell, Airbnb’s Global Head of Hosting, was assigning a team under her purview to focus on conducting a comprehensive review of fees on the service.
It’s important to note that just displaying all fees upfront doesn’t solve the problem of hosts charging ridiculous fees. Today, the company “offers tips” to hosts about setting affordable cleaning fees but there is no rule for enforcement.
It’s not clear if the company is poised to make further changes in this area, despite customer backlash. More and more Airbnb hosts are asking customers to do deeper cleanings — including tasks like stripping the bed, doing the laundry, taking out the trash and recycling, and vacuuming. These extreme requests have led to numerous parodies on social media sites where users complain about the workload and lament how they’re going to have to “go back to hotels.”
In today’s announcement, Chesky again reiterated the point saying that guests shouldn’t have to so much. He said that hosts should have “reasonable” checkout requests, like throwing food in the trash, turning off the lights and locking the doors and these should be displayed to guests before checkout. However, the company did not say if it would start penalizing hosts more directly, only that it “will continue to share more” as it rolls out the updates.
Along with these new search tweaks, Airbnb is also rolling out pricing and discount tools for hosts that will let them set competitive final prices that are inclusive of all fees. This will help hosts attract more guests as they might want their property to get listed under a certain price filter when it comes to total fees.
Airbnb registered $2.9 billion in revenue for Q3 2022 — up 29% year-on-year. This also beat the analysts’ estimate of $2.8 billion for the quarter. The company said that nights and experiences booked grew 25% year-on-year for Q3.
In Europe, the company and its rivals have been asked to share booking data with the European Commission as there are growing worries about the short-term rental economy creating a housing shortage by pushing out low-income residents.