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‘Travel revolution’ – Airbnb adds over 50 updates; makes more listings pet-friendly

The site will also launch AirCover, an insurance plan for hosts 


Have pet, will travel. Photo: Deposit

Have pet, will travel. Photo: Deposit

Have pet, will travel. Photo: Deposit

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky says the pandemic has "completely changed" travel, and the platform is adjusting accordingly.

This week, the company announced more than 50 updates to the platform, including the launch of AirCover, an insurance plan to better protect hosts from damage.

The insurance includes pet-damage protection, which is a response to the surge of interest in properties that allow pets. With no cost to the host, AirCover also provides $1 million (€860k approx) in damage protection and $1 million in liability, as well as income loss and deep-cleaning protections.

Chesky says the changes come in the midst of the "travel revolution" ushered in by the pandemic.

"The key is: Travel has completely changed," Chesky told The Washington Post. "And the reason that travel has changed is because people have more flexibility."

With more employers allowing staff to work remote, even as offices reopen, "people can travel longer," Chesky says. "We're seeing 20pc of our business are now stays for a month or longer."

According to Airbnb, 45pc of its bookings between July and September were for stays of at least a week, compared to 38pc during the same period in 2019.

In 2021, more than 100,000 people have continuously stayed in an Airbnb listing for at least three months. For 2022 bookings, long-term stays are the fastest-growing trip length.

Chesky says one of the most significant outcomes from the shift to longer stays is the increase of guests wanting to travel with pets.

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"The longer you're traveling, the longer you're actually living somewhere, the more you want to bring the whole family - and usually your entire family includes your dogs or cats," says Chesky, who recently became the owner of a 13-week-old golden retriever named Sophie Supernova.

In 2019, the top three searched-for amenities on Airbnb were pools, WiFi and kitchens.

Searches in recent months reflect travellers' shifting priorities, with "pets allowed" coming in as the most-searched-for amenity, followed by pools and WiFi.

Airbnb hopes that AirCover will incentivise more hosts to allow pets. In the past, hosts wary of dealing with a messy or destructive pet would build in high cleaning fees into the price of the listing. Now, hosts will have the option of charging a pet fee to cover the cost of deep cleaning, and AirCover will pay for any damage.

Of course, pets aren't the only guests that can cause damage to Airbnb listings. After talking to thousands of hosts, AirCover was designed to answer what hosts wanted. Chesky says that included details such as quicker payouts for damage reimbursement.

Also part of the platform's latest round of changes, the company introduced features such as "Accessibility Review" for disabled travellers to get more accurate assessments of listings; a tool to verify WiFi speeds; an expansion of its "Ask a Superhost" feature; and a better "I'm Flexible" search function.

For the latter, users can now set flexible date ranges up to 12 months in advance (it was previously six months) and apply them to four new categories of stay, including off-the-grid, ski-in/ski-out, luxe and offbeat homes.

"Forty-two percent of searches on Airbnb, the guest either has a flexible date or a flexible destination, meaning they're open-minded," Chesky says. "This is a complete paradigm shift."

By the end of the year, Airbnb will also roll out a new translation engine, which automatically translates listing descriptions and reviews.

A "Smarter Tips" tab is also coming in 2021. The redesigned tips tab will gather key stay details in one place, including check-in information and personalised Airbnb Experiences suggestions.

Chesky says guests and hosts can expect more feature releases next year. In the meantime, he plans on taking vacation in December or January to escape the cold.

"My criteria is to stay in [the West Coast] time zone, somewhere warm where I can bring my pet. Other than that, I just want to be somewhere really awesome," Chesky says. "I think that's how increasingly more people are thinking about traveling and living."

© Washington Post

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