What one OTA giant is cleverly masking, at the expense of short term rental hosts like you.
It’s been a couple of weeks since the release of Airbnb’s Summer 2022 policies; and as always, the OTA has done a great job of brewing an online store.
I’ve taken a bit of time to let my thoughts settle while reading the respective opinions of other professionals in the industry regarding these anti-host policies. From the outside, the deafening marketing message from Airbnb seems to be “The biggest changes Airbnb has made in a decade”. But what are these self-assured statements actually masking?
Let’s explore this!
OTAs’ and The New Anti-Host Policies
Brian Chesky has made promising claims to prepare the world for a new age of travel. This supports the OTA’s new search feature, which is one of the biggest talking points of the platform’s new policies.
Reinvented as ‘Airbnb’s Categories’, the OTA’s new search feature hits you right in the eyes, as soon as you visit the website’s homepage. Moving on from the limited number of 56 search categories, Airbnb has now opened up a much wider scope where ‘choice of accommodation’ is concerned, as a means to appear, encourage long-term stays and innovative travelling habits.
What used to be categorised simply as ‘houses’, ‘apartments’ and ‘hotels’ now enables guests to view bed and breakfasts next to tiny homes, national parks and even quirky glamping – more or less, at the same time.
As a result, a number of posts, Tweets and news reports have sprung up, branding Airbnb as forward-thinking in terms of their curated search categories, though there’s a whole host of property managers who have their own qualms.
How Did It Change
The trouble is, when travellers are scrolling through a plethora of properties, they’re now no longer as likely to come across accommodation options that are similar to each other. Because the OTA has admittedly prioritised choice and flexibility.
I’ve actually come across a number of disgruntled hosts as a result of this change, who claim that the OTA has once again prioritised guests, PR and surface-level brand reputation, without giving serious thought to the hardworking hosts who help keep their ship afloat.
Last year, Airbnb rolled out an insurance policy for hosts, via Airbnb Air Cover. This was to alleviate some of the common concerns of Airbnb hosts (regarding property damage, pets, etc) – so that more of them would list their properties on the OTA fund their commission fee pot.
Now, to address the reluctance of guests who wish to book Airbnb accommodation, Chesky has introduced Air Cover for guests.
In other words, a fall-back refund net for guests, and a royal fuck-you to Airbnb hosts.
Airbnb Is Changing The Game
Airbnb’s guest AirCover includes a ‘Get What You Booked Guarantee’. This guarantee is ambiguous, to say the least. What it promises guests – as well as insurance against host cancellations and property issues – is that if “a property is not advertised in the Airbnb listing, Airbnb will offer them a full refund’.
In typical Airbnb fashion, the OTA has failed to outline any specificities where this make-shift Guarantee is concerned. What it could mean is that an unreasonable guest might decide that their mattress isn’t ‘soft enough’ (as alluded to by some words on the host’s property listing) and as a result, claim a full refund from the OTA.
The issue that I – and many other hosts – have with this, is that there’s no clarity on what’s determined as an Airbnb property that simply “isn’t what it should be”.
Unfortunately, our industry still attracts guests who’ll be looking for the odd refund – and as Airbnb has made it very clear that these guests are their main priority, it places hosts in a losing battle.
What’s worse is that disputing a guest complaint to Airbnb demands ample time, resources and energy (before they even listen to you). This is the problem when you have a middle person managing your short term rental business.
A giant OTA can afford flashy marketing and PR. So, it’s no wonder that the media has positioned its latest Summer Release as an innovative step in the right direction.
However, when you peel back the layers and view the platform’s policies from a host’s point of view, you’ll quickly realise that Chesky continues to use property managers as a stepping stone, in his endeavours to take over the short-term rental industry.
But the industry (at its very core) is a simple relationship between property hosts and guests. When these relationships are forged in the correct manner, in the presence of trust, respect and business intuition – then there should be little room for an OTA to come barging in and start putting its hand in our pockets.
Beneath all the promising policies and grand statements, this is exactly what’s happening.
Summary and Advice
My advice? Start building your short term rental empire, without over-relying on Airbnb. The platform has a track record of screwing hosts over with their new policies every year and increasing their commission fees. No doubt, these fees will continue to rise over the next five years.
So, take that brave step and cut the cord before it’s too late. The best part is, that you don’t even have to do it alone – as my team and I are experts in helping STR hosts like you grow your businesses and leverage the power of direct bookings.