Photo: Russell Hart/Alamy
Airbnb is going back to its roots, the company announced, with a renewed focus on renting out single rooms to travelers worried about rising living costs.
Labeled Airbnb Rooms, the short-term rental application will launch a range of features designed to encourage travelers to consider renting a single room in a home to save money and have a new experience on the move.
Travelers will be able to specifically search for private rooms and see how much they’d save after renting an apartment or a whole house, and a new set of filters lets them see only rooms with a private en suite bathroom. The company will also flag the private rooms that do not have an internal or external lock, allowing guests to ensure they have a minimum level of privacy before booking.
“One of the things we know is on people’s minds is inflation and the possibility of a recession,” said Nate Blecharczyk, co-founder of the company. “And so money matters. We think Private Rooms is a very strong value proposition and the time has come to rediscover and relaunch this category.”
The average price for an Airbnb room in the UK is £59 a night, says Blecharczyk, and globally, more than 80% of stays in private rooms were less than $100 (£80) a night. .
“Airbnb has something for everyone: every price point, every location, every configuration,” he said. “Now you can toggle between searching for house rooms, you can see how it changes the value proposition dramatically. It’s very clear.”
The change in focus represents a return to the basics of the company, which began in 2007 when roommates Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia began renting space on air mattresses in their living room in San Francisco. Blecharczyk joined the one-room B&B in 2008 as a full-fledged enterprise, offering to match people who needed a hotel room with those who had a spare room and needed extra cash. By 2009, it had expanded from air beds and shared spaces to full properties, gradually dominating listings on the platform.
In addition to the launch of private rooms, Airbnb is also releasing a series of features to address the viral criticism of the experience of checking out of a rental on the service. At the end of 2022, social media users shared experiences and jokes about asking their hosts to perform increasingly ridiculous tasks, from vacuuming the carpets to walking the dog, as part of their check-out routine.
Although many of the jokes were fanciful, Chesky took the brunt of the criticism in November, writing: “You shouldn’t have to do unreasonable check-in tasks, such as making the beds, doing the laundry or vacuuming.
“But we think it’s reasonable to turn off the lights, throw food in the trash, and lock the doors – just like you would when leaving your own home.”
Now, Airbnb will be making requests from hosts through a more standard set of checkboxes, making it easy for them to request common check-out actions like putting the bins outside or returning the keys, and discouraging them from adding more esoteric requests.
Those rules, a spokesperson said, would be “clearly displayed on the listing page before a guest books a listing. Guests are also reminded of the listing check-in instructions the day before departure, and listings with low ratings will be removed repeatedly due to unreasonable assignments from Airbnb.”
Promoting the switch back to private rooms could also help Airbnb respond to criticism of its wider impact on cities and tourist areas around the world. As overall house rents have soared, the company is at the center of gentrification, over-tourism and housing shortages, with residents of popular holiday destinations accusing landlords of taking homes off the rental market to profit from tourists. instead.
Unveiling plans to change the law on holiday lettings, asking owners across England to get planning permission to convert their homes into short-term lets, the housing secretary, Michael Gove, said: “I am determined to ensure that access to more people on houses. at reasonable prices and that we give priority to families who are desperate to rent or buy their own home close to where they work.”
In response to a Welsh government consultation last month, Airbnb cited research which suggested that tourists using the site contributed £107m to the Welsh economy in 2019, equivalent to 0.2% of Wales’ gross domestic product . The company has backed plans for a registration scheme for short-stay landlords, arguing that the requirement would help address a “lack of accurate data” on the platform’s effects within specific communities in Wales.