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May 04, 2023

Airbnb pushes private room rentals as travelers seek affordable lodging options

New features aim to improve the booking process while addressing safety concerns and offering fee transparency

Business Airbnb
Airbnb Rooms Feature Provided Image/Airbnb

Airbnb has introduced new updates in time for the summer travel season, including a curated search feature for private room rentals and detailed information on hosts.

As summer approaches, many travelers are debating between booking hotel rooms or Airbnb rentals.

To sway travelers, Airbnb has rolled out a revamped version of its single-room offerings that includes added safety features and greater price transparency. Dubbed Airbnb Roomsit comes at a time when many are questioning the affordability, safety and simplicity of booking an Airbnb instead of a hotel.

"It is an admission that travelers care more about affordability than they did a year ago," Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky told the Associated Press.

More than 80% of Airbnb's private rooms cost less than $100 per night, with an average nightly rate of $67, the company said. Private rooms always have been available through Airbnb, but they have gained popularity. Last year, nights stayed in private room listings grew by 40% compared to 2021. In Pennsylvania, private room bookings earned hosts more than $23 million last year. 

Airbnb Rooms allows users to search for single-room availability within houses and apartments, and includes a dedicated "Rooms" tool that offers a curated set of options. Redesigned filters let people compare the prices of different types of rentals, such as private rooms vs. full homes. 

The new "Host Passport" tool lets Airbnb users get to know potential hosts before booking private rooms. They can learn what they do for work and read reviews from previous guests. Updated privacy features allow users to find out whether bathrooms are shared, whether anyone will be in the home during their stay and if the bedroom door locks, among other details. 

Airbnb has introduced more than 50 upgrades ahead of the summer travel season. They include transparent checkout instructions, the ability to pay for bookings in multiple payments or via bank accounts, lower fees for monthly stays, specified amenities for children and infants, checkout reminders and the opportunity to appeal blocked bookings. 

airbnb host passportProvided Image/Airbnb

Airbnb customers can learn information about potential hosts before booking rentals with the new 'Host Passport' feature.

Airbnb also is launching 25 improvements for hosts, including new pricing features and guest identity verification. 

Airbnb's new emphasis on private room rentals is a callback to to the original business concept that Chesky and Joe Gebbia, the company's chairman, had in 2007 when they hosted guests in their San Francisco apartment to help pay rent. Since then, Airbnb listings have shifted toward whole houses and prices have jumped to an average daily rate of $153.

Some travelers are reluctant to book Airbnbs, preferring hotels. 

The Wall Street Journal recently asked frequent travelers to weigh the options of hotels or Airbnb rentals. One man said he does not enjoy staying in an Airbnb because he feels like "an inhabitant of someone else's space, an invader of sorts." He also bemoaned the lack of onsite food and drink options and amenities that hotels usually offer. 

Airbnb guests also have complained that they were told to perform laborious tasks such as taking out the trash and laundering the sheets before checkout, despite already paying cleaning fees.

Airbnb has faced safety concerns, such as hosts allegedly recording guests with hidden cameras. The company has taken steps to heighten safety, such as implementing stricter regulations for hosts and cracking down parties. 

Despite the complaints, Airbnb earned its first full-year profit last year, totaling $1.9 billion, and analysts expect the company to be even more profitable this year.

To access the new Airbnb Rooms feature, Airbnb users can head to the website or mobile app and click on "Rooms" while exploring accommodation options.

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