Airbnb users still on the fence about whether or not to list their apartment or home as a rental on the site can now get a helping hand from some of the site’s most experienced listers.
Starting this week, Airbnb will connect potential new hosts with “Superhosts” who will provide them step-by-step instructions on how to set up their listing to ensure it’s desirable and clickable for guests. The host mentor program is one of several new setup features the company revealed during its Winter 2022 Release aimed at encouraging even more users to take the plunge into becoming a host and reduce anxieties around potential assholes trashing their home.
Airbnb’s CEO Brian Chesky shared details of the new product with Gizmodo and a handful of other reporters in New York on Tuesday. The Superhost guidance feature will let aspiring hosts match with experienced Airbnb veterans in their relative geographical region. Once connected, the pair can communicate via an Airbnb text chat or audio. Users can also opt to start a Zoom video call with their Superhost within the Airbnb app even if neither user has a Zoom account themselves.
Chesky, accompanied onstage by his eager golden retriever, showed off the tool in real time. During his demo, the CEO connected with a San Francisco-based Superhost via Zoom who was able to remotely view his screen as he filled various categories required to list a unit. The Superhost gave Chesky tips on the types of photos to include, naming conventions for the unit, and basic do’s and don’ts around ways to make the listing feel unique for users. Hint: baking homemade cookies for guests is typically a plus.
New hosts can now also opt to choose an “experienced guest,” who has at least three previous Airbnb stays and a good standing to be their first guest. The Superhost can then guide the rookie host through the entirety of that first rental and answer any questions that may come up along the way. The aim with both of these new features is to ease potentially hesitant hosts into the hosting process and minimize the possibility their experience could end in a potential account ending disaster. On that same note, the company said it’s expanding its identity verification tools to include all booking guests in its 35 most traveled countries (representing around 90% of reservations). Airbnb hopes to boost that up to 100% of its guests by Spring 2023, which they hope will add another layer of assurances to convince users to become hosts.
Superhosts have an incentive to help out the newbies too. Airbnb told Gizmodo the Superhosts will receive a one-time cash reward reward for helping a host. To start, the company says it’s launching the mentor program with 1,500 Superhosts in over 80 countries.
“Today, just like during the Great Recession in 2008, people are especially interested in earning extra income through hosting,” Chesky said. “That’s why we’re introducing an easy way for millions of people to Airbnb their homes. With Airbnb Setup, every new Host can get free, one-to-one guidance from a Superhost from their first question through their first reservation.”
Airbnb also announced expansions to its“categories”search feature launched earlier this year. Rather than search for specific vacations spots by name or location, the categories feature encourages users to browse listings based on their related experiences or specific aesthetics. Previous categories included geographic descriptors like “national parks” or “deserts” or more niche, quirky filters like “design.”
This week, Airbnb added six new categories. One of those categories, dubbed “Adapted,” attempts to list units that are wheelchair accessible. To do that, Airbnb says it’s parenting with a third party service that will create 3D scans of a host’s unit. That 3D scan will produce a floor plan which the user can then view on the app.
These new ways of thinking about search and discovery aren’t just incremental product changes either. Chesky said the categories tool, which places more of an emphasis on experiences than specific locations or traditional destinations, could help address some complaints from users that there’s an undersupply of available getaway listings.
“The issue [with a traditional search box] is you have to think of a place to type in,” Chesky said. “We’re in 100,000 cities. Most people can’t think of typing in a place they have never been.”
Alternatively, through the categories function, Chesky said Airbnb is attempting to point users towards areas where there’s already plenty of supply. That means potentially nudging winter holiday travelers who otherwise would think to travel to New York City to instead consider a single room in a castle somewhere in Ireland. In theory, that practice could allow more hosts in various regions to list their units without guests all fighting over a select few hot travel destinations.
“I don’t think over-tourism is too many tourists in the world travelling,” Chesky added. “I think over tourism is too many people going to the same place at the same time.”
Correction 11/16/2022 9:12 a.m. ET: A previous version of this article said Superhosts would be paid a percentage of a listing for helping hosts. An Airbnb spokesperson clarified Superhosts instead will receive a “one-time cash reward.”