Sep 20, 2023 - Economy

Airbnb's CEO has a plan to make you love Airbnb again

Illustration of a lightbulb with the filament in the shape of Airbnb's logo.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky believes new and recent product changes will boost the company's reputation amid criticisms over prices and more — but that won't happen tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that.

  • The company will reach a greater level of "quality reliability" by next May, Chesky tells Axios. "I think the reputation of our service will probably take another year after that."

Driving the news: Chesky spoke with Axios ahead of a smattering of updates the company is announcing Wednesday.

  • Among the new features: A carousel that will show alternate booking options available on slightly different dates from a user's original search query. (It'll be familiar to anyone who's ever booked air travel with flexible timing.)
  • Users will also be able to filter search results to show only listings with king-size beds or pet-friendly options, for example.

Meanwhile, Airbnb is set to start verifying listings in the U.S., Canada, Australia, U.K. and France starting this year, using a combination of artificial intelligence and human reviewers to ensure listings are authentic and accurate.

The big picture: The tweaks — which come between Airbnb's usual big summer and winter updates — arrive as some travelers are increasingly turned off by cleaning fees, checkout chores and other headaches imposed by Airbnb hosts.

Between the lines: Airbnb has limited direct control over hosts' pricing, fees and so on, so it uses product tweaks to nudge them in a certain direction.

  • For example: It recently launched "total price display," which combines the base costs of a given listing with cleaning fees and other extras.
  • That's a helpful user tool — 8 million people have tried it, the company says — but it also pushes hosts to lower or eliminate their fees to stay competitive.
  • Indeed, cleaning fees were lowered or eliminated at more than 260,000 listings so far this year, per Airbnb.

What they're saying: "The reality is, we grew so fast between 2009 and 2019 that we weren't materially improving the quality of the service to address many of these gaps," Chesky says.

  • "And so I think that we got really hunkered down starting in 2020, 2021. We've done two years' worth of releases, starting in May of 2021. We've done over 400 upgrades and innovations and features. We probably have a couple hundred more to go. And at some point I do think it's going to get really, really dialed in."

The bottom line: "We can't improve our reputation until after we've solved the issue," Chesky says. "Probably by May of 2025, that would be my prediction where the ultimate narrative changes."

  • "I think people should give us a chance, see all the improvements."
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