Airbnb Wants To Fix Six Things About Its Business

Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky took to twitter to crowdsource priorities for improving their product. He reported back on the top six priorities that came out of the project.

I think the platform was revolutionary but also doesn’t live up to its potential. There are way too many hosts with way too many rules that too often fail to deliver the product that they promise. And the platform doesn’t do enough to generate trust and enforce norms of behavior.

Hosts cancel on guests and guests basically just out of luck, there may not be other lodging options available and the most Airbnb will do is offer a credit. Sometimes. The last Airbnb I stayed in had a locked plastic box over the climate control so you couldn’t turn down the air conditioning and cost them electricity charges. And that was at $300 per night.

I also don’t like hauling out my trash at the end of a stay when I’m being charged a cleaning fee. Pricing is anything but transparent when various fees can add 50% onto the cost of a stay. And those fees often make Airbnb an uncompetitive option for short stays.

Airbnb has talked about a loyalty program for years, and there’s been talk of a co-brand credit card too. I like being able to check in early and check out late because of hotel elite status.

The top 6 issues customers have, which have the Airbnb CEO’s attention, are:

These all come down to ‘make Airbnb easier to do business with and through’. I think of customer service as a catch-all for ensuring that the product being offered on the platform is something consumers can have confidence in, and standing behind that when there are problems. This also recognizes that the fee structure is a problem that disincentivizes stays for many use cases.

And a loyalty program is a no-brainer, but it’s far easier to deliver things like rebates for spend on the platform and perhaps more elevated customer service to frequent guests than it is to ensure any sort of elevated experience during a stay. Hotel chains have a hard enough time ensuring elite benefits on properties where there are clear brand standards, expectations for delivering an elevated in-stay experience for frequent Airbnb guests should be modest at best.

There’s a big demand for what Airbnb does. And overall they bring down the cost of rooms (more supply) and bring more travelers which is a good thing in most cases. They’re also the market leader for a reason (compare to Marriott Homes & Villas on transparency). Even Marriott hotel owners want to rent out their rooms through Airbnb.

And of course if hotels can’t – or won’t – deliver on the things that differentiate their product from Airbnb, like elite benefits and daily housekeeping, they’ll find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. […] If Airbnb offered more transparent pricing (where total price wasn’t 50% more than advertised rate) and reasonable cancellation policies they would clean hotels’ clocks. Airbnb has scale and brand, but that’s really not a moat and there’s a clear opportunity to re-disrupt lodging with something that actually delivers a better customer experience (and layers on a loyalty program) while the CEO of Airbnb is distracted with crypto payments as number one priority. […]


  1. Karl, so perhaps it’s better that they complain about fees…come in and find anything they can wrong ( because this is generally the type of person we are dealing with in this situation) and then refund our entire cleaning fee. So, basically we are working for free. We bust our ass cleaning, they complain and get all of their cleaning fee back..then we go clean when they leave? And in my 24 years I’ve never known them to leave it clean when they’ve been refunded. So, yes I’d say stay home if you don’t like the fees. I’m completely fine with taking another job, and not having to work for free like they think we should. As I’m sure alot of the others in my profession feel the same.

  2. First of all, I have been a host and traveler on Airbnb since 2014. As both. I can say that cleaning up dishes/starting the dishwasher and removing trash is NOT unreasonable even when there is a cleaning fee. Any guest who balks attend these two items should choose a hotel instead. As far as locked thermostats: hotels often do this, as well. Furthermore, hotels regularly require that the room key is installed inside the unit for heat, A/C. & lights to work and hotels don’t typically have windows that can be opened. I have locking thermostats on all of my knots (fully disclosed in my listings.) Don’t like a hosts rules? Don’t book there. It’s that simple. And lastly, as far as host cancellations: if you are booking with a highly rated host then you are assured they don’t cancel on guests. Airbnb posts an automatic message on platform any time a host cancels & they strip Superhost status for a year & slap the host with a penalty.

  3. If you don’t like “hauling your trash” go to a hotel, Gary. It’s NOT a hotel, it’s a home share. Trust me when I say hosts put up with far more poor behavior than travelers and get shafted by ABB all the time.

  4. Ah Gary, peruse the blogs forums and pages of the things that hosts endure. Partying guests, damage by fake support animals, squatters, untrue accusations resulting in guest being refunded for entire stay after they leave, etc. The list goes on and on.
    Guests have figured out (and there are websites and forums detailing how to scam) that if they use *hot words* like unsafe, racist, discriminated, they get the refunded immediately without any questions from host. Hosts are leaving Airbnb in droves over mishandling of false claims, and lack of support for hosts. Ive used the platform both as a guest and a super host and I can tell you that the HOST is the one getting the shaft the majority of the time. It’s demanding, entitled, dishonest guests that are ruining it for everybody.

  5. @ Karl Rupp
    Airbnb decided to barge into traditional vacation rental market that existed when Chesky wasn’t even born yet and now complains that set up that worked for decades is all of a sudden a problem. Airbnb now tries to cater to very different sets of clienteles with very different sets of expectations of what’s customary and what’s not. I cannot argue that maybe someone renting a spare room in their house (typical Airbnb set up) should not require renters to take trash out if they charge a cleaning fee. But I will absolutely tell you that owners or managers of WHOLE house (not condo, not apartment) vacation rental homes will absolutely expect and require a minimum set pre-check-out actions done by the guests. It may vary by market, but in mine it is : put the dishes in dishwasher and press start, empty fridge of your leftovers, and yes, take the bagged trash to outdoor bear-proof garbage container. I will tell you that there is no daily maid service (and none should be expected), and it is not sanitary to pile garbage from 10-16 people for a week waiting for cleaners to pick it up after check out just because guests “paid cleaning fee”. And you and I can argue, Airbnb-ers may not like it, but this is how it is. If airbnb-ers need daily maid service or do not like cleaning fees, they should consider full service resorts or hotels – not standalone vacation rental HOUSES. What Airbnb should do is include all fees (cleaning, pet etc) into total rates shown upfront shown to potential guest and let the guest decide. What Airbnb also should do is stop gaslighting by blaming cleaning fees and instead reduce their robber-baron scale “service fees”.

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