Airbnb Adds 2% More to Guest Fees: What It Means for Hosts with Up to 16.2% Charges on International Bookings

Thibault Masson

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Effective April 1, 2024, Airbnb is introducing a significant change for hosts using the split-fee model: an additional fee of up to 2% for bookings made in a different currency than the host’s set currency. This means for international bookings, guests could now face a service fee up to 16.2%, impacting hosts who frequently accommodate overseas travelers. This update aims to manage Airbnb’s currency risk, potentially increasing its revenue but, also, influencing international booking patterns. As vacation rental managers, understanding this change is crucial for strategizing in a global market. Let’s explore how this could affect your bookings and revenue.

Many hosts will likely not experience any impact from this change, as a significant number of bookings occur within the same currency region. If you’re a vacation rental manager operating under Airbnb’s Host-Only Fee model, the new changes regarding guest fees do not affect you.

What’s Changing? Why is Airbnb adding up to 2% in guest fees to some bookings?

Starting April 1, 2024, Airbnb is implementing a noteworthy change that will affect international transactions on the platform. This modification focuses on bookings where there’s a currency mismatch between what the guest pays and what the host has set for their listing. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Nature of the Fee: If a guest from one country books a rental in another country and chooses to pay in their home currency, which is different from the currency set by the host, an additional fee will be charged. This fee can be up to 2% of the total booking cost before taxes are added.
  • Total Fee Calculation: Typically, guests are already paying a service fee under Airbnb’s split-fee model. This fee averages around 14.2%. With the new policy, for cross-currency bookings, this number can escalate, potentially reaching a total of up to 16.2% in guest service fees.
  • Example to Illustrate: Let’s say a guest from the United States, paying in USD, decides to book a vacation rental in Italy, where the host’s set currency is Euro (EUR). Under the new policy, the guest will be charged the standard service fee plus up to an additional 2% for the currency conversion. If the original fee was 14.2% on a $1,000 booking (which would be $142), the new fee could add up to $20 more, bringing the total fee to $162 or 16.2% of the booking cost.
  • Scope of the Change: It’s important to note that this change only affects bookings under the split-fee model and specifically those involving different currencies. Domestic bookings or bookings where the guest pays in the same currency as the host’s listing are not subject to this additional fee.

What Types of Airbnb Hosts Should Pay Attention?

Airbnb’s new fee policy, starting April 1, 2024, is particularly relevant for certain hosts. If you often welcome international guests, this section is crucial for you. It’s important to note that only those hosts who have a significant number of bookings where guests pay in a different currency from the one Airbnb uses to pay the hosts could be affected in a serious manner.

 Let’s break down who should be especially alert to these changes:

  • Hosts in Tourist Hotspots: If your property is in a popular tourist destination or a city known for international business travel, you’re likely to be affected. These places typically attract guests from various countries, often paying in different currencies.
  • Diverse Currency Bookings: If your guests commonly pay in euros, pounds, or other currencies different from yours, you’ll see the most direct impact. This is typical for hosts in the Eurozone with frequent guests from non-euro areas, for example.
  • Seasonal Variation Hosts: Those who see a change in guest nationalities during different seasons, like ski resorts in winter or beach locations in summer, need to understand how these fees apply across the year.
  • Cultural and Event-based Rentals: Properties often booked for international events, festivals, or conferences will also be significantly impacted due to the higher likelihood of cross-currency bookings.
  • Long-Distance Travel Destinations: Hosts in locations favored by long-distance travelers (like exotic islands or major global landmarks) should be aware, as these spots typically attract a diverse international clientele.
  • High-End Rentals: If you offer luxury or higher-priced rentals that attract an international audience, the additional fee could represent a notable extra cost for guests.

Understanding Airbnb’s Currency Fluctuation Challenge

Airbnb’s recent decision to introduce an additional fee for cross-currency bookings is rooted in the complexities of managing currency fluctuations in a global marketplace. Let’s unpack this further:

  • The Core of the Currency Challenge: When a guest from one country books a rental in another and chooses to pay in their home currency, it creates a situation where Airbnb has to manage payments in two different currencies. For example, a guest from the UK paying in British Pounds for a rental in Japan priced in Yen (And therefore, a Host paid in Yen).
  • Airbnb’s Previous Approach: Until now, Airbnb has shouldered the burden of currency risk. This means if the value of a currency changed significantly between the time of booking and the time of payment to the host, Airbnb would absorb any financial loss or gain resulting from this fluctuation.
  • The Impact of Currency Volatility: Currency values can be quite volatile, influenced by various global economic factors. This volatility poses a significant financial risk for Airbnb, especially given the scale at which it operates internationally. Sudden shifts in exchange rates could lead to substantial financial impacts.
  • Why Introduce the Fee?: By implementing the new fee, Airbnb aims to redistribute some of this risk to its guests. The additional charge helps to offset potential losses due to unfavorable currency exchange movements. Essentially, it provides a buffer to protect Airbnb’s financial stability.
  • Balancing Financial Stability with User Experience: This decision is a balancing act for Airbnb. While it’s crucial for them to manage financial risks effectively, they also need to maintain a competitive and attractive platform for both hosts and guests. Adding fees can be a delicate matter, as it directly affects the cost for users.
  • Long-term Strategy: This move can be seen as part of a long-term strategy to ensure Airbnb’s operations remain sustainable and resilient in the face of global economic changes. By stabilizing their revenue streams, they can continue to invest in and improve the platform for hosts and guests alike.

Potential Financial Impacts for Airbnb: More or Less Revenues?

Airbnb’s new 2% extra fee for bookings made in different currencies could mean they make more money from these international transactions. However, it’s not just about this new fee – it’s also about how guests react to paying more. If guests find these fees too high and book less, Airbnb might not see as much extra revenue as they expect.

It’s also interesting to note that Airbnb used to have a similar fee. Back in 2016, they introduced an “up to 3% currency transaction fee” for bookings in different currencies. But, for reasons not entirely clear, they stopped charging this fee at some point. With this new 2% fee, Airbnb is bringing back a similar charge, but how this will affect their overall income is a bit of a guessing game. It all depends on whether international guests keep booking as usual despite the extra cost

Potential Financial Impacts for Airbnb: Less risk and more revenues?

The introduction of this new fee could potentially boost Airbnb’s revenue, as they are adding an extra charge of up to 2% on certain international bookings. However, this strategy has its complexities. 

For Airbnb, while this could mean increased revenue from these specific transactions, there’s also a risk involved. If these additional fees are perceived as too high by international guests, there could be a decrease in such bookings, which might lead to an overall reduction in booking volume on the platform.

Advice for Airbnb Hosts

Many hosts will likely not experience any impact from this change, as a significant number of bookings occur within the same currency region. For example, U.S. travelers staying in U.S. properties or European visitors booking within the Eurozone typically use the same currency as their hosts, rendering this new fee irrelevant in these scenarios.

If some hosts think that they may be affected after a while, here are a few things they could try:

  • Diversifying Your Guest Base: If you’re one of the hosts who frequently receives payments from guests in a different currency, it’s wise to start considering diversifying your guest base. Focusing more on local or same-currency guests can help mitigate the impact of this new fee structure on your bookings.
  • Revisiting Your Pricing Strategy: Hosts with a high volume of cross-currency bookings should be aware that the additional fee may lead to higher total costs for their international guests. To maintain the attractiveness of your listings, it might be necessary to revisit and potentially adjust your pricing strategy.
  • Exploring Alternatives: If you find that a significant portion of your revenue is affected by this change, it may be beneficial to explore other vacation rental platforms. Look for those with different fee structures or more favorable terms for international transactions, especially if they align better with your guest demographics.

By being proactive and adapting your strategies, you can continue to thrive as a host, even in the face of these new challenges introduced by Airbnb’s updated fee structure.

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