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Airbnb set to play favourites with listings in bid to improve reliability

Airbnb said that it will roll out what it calls ‘Guest Favorites’ ranking system this week

Airbnb will highlight rental listings that have received top scores from guests, information that the company’s CEO says will help bring hotel-like reliability to booking a house or room on the site.

Airbnb said that it will roll out what it calls “Guest Favorites” this week. About 2 million of the site’s 7 million listings will get the label.

It is unclear how hosts who don’t get the favored badge will react — they could lose bookings, or they might have to cut prices to compete. CEO Brian Chesky said he expects favorites to charge more than other listings.

Chesky acknowledges that the variety of properties on Airbnb creates uncertainty among renters. He said the unpredictability of listings is the biggest reason why someone would choose a hotel room over Airbnb.

“A lot of guests have described booking Airbnb, once they check in, it’s a moment of truth. Is the house exactly what they expected?” he said in an interview. “We don’t want this to be a moment of truth. We want you to know exactly what you’re going to get before you book.”

Chesky said favorites will have guest ratings averaging at least 4.9 out of 5.0 and cancellation rates and customer-service incidents of 1% or lower. They will be denoted on the site with a badge, and shoppers can filter for them. The company, however, will make no guarantees about the guest favorite listings.

Airbnb is also encouraging hosts to create photo tours of their property, which Chesky said will use AI to organize photos by room.

The company is also making behind-the-scenes changes that will include helping hosts adjust prices based on demand, down to a daily basis.

Earlier this year, Airbnb began discouraging hosts from charging exorbitant cleaning fees, a major complaint of users. A 2022 analysis of 1,000 listings by personal-finance site NerdWallet pegged the median cleaning fee for a one-night stay at $75, about 25% of the total bill.

The site lets visitors filter searches by all-in pricing, which includes the fees, although it is not the default setting. Visitors must use a toggle switch on the home page.

About 260,000 listings have lowered the cleaning fee since then, according to the company.

“I had no idea what that number could be,” Chesky said. “I’m pretty satisfied with the pricing progress.”

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