On May 24, Airbnb announced more than one hundred upgrades across its service for guests, new hosts, and existing hosts. To help you appreciate the size of the changes and the impact on your business, you will find here the video of Brian Chesky. We have also turned the video into a text version so that you can better remember what this 2021 release is about. This article completes our May 2021 series on Airbnb’s strategy, along with our analysis of the announcement and the full list of the 103 features announced, an in-depth overview of the 4 pillars of Airbnb’s 2021 strategy, strategic lessons learned from Airbnb’s Q1 2021 business and financial results.
Based on Airbnb’s purported goal to attract ‘millions more hosts’, and their “Made possible by Hosts” campaign, it was fair to assume that the host sign-up process would be simplified further, and so it is. But what else is different?
- Increased flexibility in search for guests with the introduction of ‘flexible destinations’ and ‘flexible matching’
- New host sign-up funnel whittled down to 10 steps, integrating machine learning to auto-fill data
- Easier access to 1-1 Superhost support for new hosts, as well as quick access to learning tools for all hosts tailored to their needs
- Ramped up community support by doubling the size of team, expanding language support from 11 languages to 42, and
- Dedicated Priority support for Superhosts
This, of course, is merely scratching the surface as you will see in this video announcement by Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky. You will find the video transcript also included below.
Video: Airbnb’s Brian Chesky on the 2021 release
Full text: What Brian Chesky said about Airbnb’s new 2021 product and service features
Hey, everyone. Thanks for joining. I’ve got some exciting things to show you today. We just completed the most comprehensive update ever to the Airbnb service. We’ve done this to get ready for some of the biggest changes that we see coming in travel. So first, let me take a minute to give you a brief history of travel. The word travel comes from travail, which means a painful or laborious effort. And for most of history, travel was a struggle. It was work, not fun, but this changed in the 17th century with the Grand Tour. It was a multi-year educational journey, limited to privileged sons of European nobility. So privileged, you could sit back while others travailed for you. This is how travel was for nearly 200 years until the invention of the steam engine. Now, regular people could travel by train, then came cars and airplanes, and travel took off. In 1950, 25 million people crossed the border to travel. By 2019, it reached 1.47 billion people. And then, suddenly, it all collapsed. With the global pandemic, international travel plummeted. But what’s remarkable is what we saw next.
After months of being stuck at home, millions of people got in their cars, and they traveled nearby to small towns and rural communities, staying in Airbnbs. Now, I want to pause for a moment and speak directly to our hosts. I’ve heard from many of you around the world. I know how uncertain and challenging it is, but I want to share my optimism with you, know that it will get better. People are getting vaccinated, travel restrictions are lifting. People want to connect, and so travel is coming back. In fact, we believe this will be the biggest travel rebound in a century. But travel will be really different than before, because people have newfound flexibility. As they’re adopting remote work, they’re less tethered. And because of this, we’re seeing three fundamental trends in travel.
First, people can travel any time, and we’re seeing it on Airbnb. We tried an experiment and built an expanded dates feature. And here it is. You could expand your dates by one, three, or seven days. Since January, it’s been used a hundred million times. Second, people are traveling everywhere. Now, growth in low-density urban areas, suburbs, and small towns has been accelerating from 26% in 2018 to 35% so far this year. And third, people are staying longer. Nearly a quarter of our nights booked in Q1 were for long-term stays, which are stays of longer than 28 days. You see, people aren’t just traveling in Airbnb, they’re now living on Airbnb. In Seattle, 40% of upcoming nights booked for this summer are now long-term stays. We’re seeing similar trends in other urban destinations, 43% in Los Angeles and 62% in New York City. You see, people are now traveling anytime, everywhere, and staying longer. Travel has changed, and we have, too.
So what we’ve done is a top-to-bottom update to the Airbnb service. This is the Airbnb 2021 release, with over a hundred upgrades, delivering a better guest experience, and a better host experience. Let’s start with a better guest experience. People are flexible about where and when they travel, but being flexible makes searching on Airbnb really difficult. So let’s say, I want to go to wine country. I type in Sonoma and I add dates, and then I get results. If I don’t find exactly what I’m looking for and I’m flexible, I searched for a few other dates, and I get a lot more results. But let’s say, I’m open to any weekend this summer and I’m open to going anywhere in California. I could literally search every city in California and end up with 27,000 searches. Summer would be over before I’m done searching. So we think we have an answer to this. It’s a whole new way to search in Airbnb. It’s called I’m Flexible, and it works in three ways: flexible dates, flexible matching, and flexible destinations.
Let me start by showing you Flexible Dates. It’s been designed for guests with flexibility around when they travel. All right, let me open the app and give you a demo. Let’s say, I’m going to Sonoma. I just tap on Sonoma, and this is the calendar. Now, the calendar is great for when I have a specific date in mind, but I’m flexible. So I’m just going to tap I’m flexible, and now I can search any weekend week or month any time. I’m going to choose a weekend, this summer, and I’m going to search. So now, what I’ve just done, is I’ve just searched for every available home in Sonoma, any weekend, all summer long.
What you end up with is a whole bunch of options you would have never seen unless you’ve done multiple searches. So this one is available June 11th to June 13th. This is available August 6th to August 8th. So if I had done a search like August 25th to 29th, I wouldn’t have seen any of these. So, I’m going to add some filters. I’m going to refine this down, so let’s add a price filter. And I’m going to add some amenities, so I’m going to add wifi, pool, and let’s go with a hot tub. And I’m going to bring my dog, just not in the hot tub with me. But now, I’ve just filtered from hundreds of listings down to four. So what I just did was over filter and ran out of options. Now, this happens a lot, but we found a solution for this too. It’s called Flexible Matching. Let me show you how it works.
So let’s pick up where I left off. I over filtered and only yielded four exact matches. This is the problem with fixed search. With Flexible Matching, we show you 186 results now. So you have a lot more to choose from. So how do we do it? Well, Flexible Matching includes listings that lie just outside my search parameters, like Richard and Wendy’s place here. Now, this has everything I searched for, but it’s missing a hot tub. We still show you this result now. Or this country retreat, it’s just a little above the price filter. So that’s Flexible Matching. It shows you more options that are just outside of your search parameters. Now for hosts, this’ll be great because it will surface your listing more frequently to guests.
Now, we also know that some guests are flexible, not only about when they’re going, but where they’re going. So today, we are introducing Flexible Destinations. It’s a new way to discover unique stays you didn’t even think to search for. So I’m going to open the app, and below where are you going, we have this new button, I’m flexible. So let’s go to I’m flexible. This is a completely new way to explore Airbnb. And now you’re going to notice here at the top, we organize not by location but by category of homes. So you have treehouses and farms, amazing pools. You can see there’s so many up here.
Let’s just start. Let’s browse a few of these. So these are treehouses, and you’re going to notice that we actually organize the treehouses by location. So this one is 55 miles away. This one’s 680 miles away if you want to go a little further. You can go here at British Columbia. Or you have boats, and literally live on the water. Look at these. These are some incredible boats, like this one in Washington. We have cabins. We actually have tens of thousands of cabins on Airbnb. They’ve got really cool architecture. We’ve got an entire collection of A-frame homes like this one in Oakhurst, California.
We have tiny homes. We have yurts. I didn’t even know what a yurt was. I thought these were just fancy tents, but yurts are these really cool, kind of mini architectural wonders. A lot of them are handmade, and they’re really, really cool. So we have barns. You could stay in a desert. Oh, look at this, islands. Boom. Look at that, private islands. You could have your own private island on Airbnb. And one of the things you’re going to notice is all of the photos are of private islands. These are all actually private islands.
Now, we use structured data to organize our listings into these categories to ensure they’re accurate. It’s really cool. You can explore all over the world. Look, we have castles, lighthouses. You can literally live off-the-grid. If you want to live in a lake house, a vineyard. We have caves. Who doesn’t want to live in a cave? Or a shipping container, you never walked by one of those and said, “I want to live there.” So where are these islands? Well, I’m just going to tap on the map, and here they are. You can see these private islands are all over North America. The really cool thing about flexible locations is it uses a combination of your location data, and structured data serves the best listings in each category.
And you’re going to notice that the map radius changes as I tapped. So when I go to here to beachfront, look what happens. It shows homes just on the water and it picks the coast of California because it knows I’m in California. But if I go to nature lodges, it takes a wider radius, so now we’re going back to North America. Amazing pools goes even narrower. And farms, farms takes kind of a northwestern kind of radius. So, I’m going to take a look at some of these farms, and you’re going to see again, these are all based on my location. Thanks to location data and structured data. If you’re in South Africa, you’ll see a totally different collection of farms. The category has changed too. If you’re in Spain, you see castles. In the UK, you see lighthouses. In Japan, you see ryokans. In Portugal, you see windmills. In Italy, you see trullos. And eventually, on Mars, we’ll show you biodomes with sunset views and free parking.
Alright so, I’m going to go back to the farms near me. I really feel like spending the summer with some alpaca, so I’m going to tap on this Alpaca Farm and Gardens Retreat, and it’s hosted by Julie here. She’s a Superhost. Let’s just scroll down. I want to take a look at the reviews. 4.99, I mean this is basically almost a perfect rating at 155 reviews. And we’ve made it even easier to book. So I’m going to reserve this. I just tap here, and I’m going to basically live with some alpacas this summer. Flexible Destinations will be live June 30th. So that’s I’m Flexible, with three new ways to search on Airbnb. Now, these are just three of dozens of upgrades that we’ve made for our guests.
Now, I’d like to show you how we’ve improved the host experience. Our hosts are everyday people. Nearly 90% of our four million hosts are individuals, not professionals, 55% of them are women. They’re global and diverse, and they come from all walks of life, from students to retirees, they’re artists, nurses, and teachers. We made it even easier for anyone to become a host. That is going to be really, really important as travel rebounds, and many people try hosting for the first time. And it starts with an all-new host welcome page. It’s a simple, clear introduction to hosting.
So now, let me show you just how easy it is to list your space. I’m going to start by listing a house. Now, I’m not going to list the house I live in now. I think I’m going to list my parents’ house in Niskayuna, New York. I don’t think they’d mind, and I think more people should visit Niskayuna. A lot of people are saying that Niskayuna is the new Paris. And so, I’m going to take you back to the late 90s, 25 years ago to my childhood house, and you can relive my childhood. So let’s list my house. Here we are. We allow you to pick what kind of home you live in. Now, it’s not a shepherd’s hut exactly, definitely not a chalet. Now look up here. If I need help at any point, I can just click on Help and this drawer opens up. I can learn from a Superhost with an online class or have a one-on-one session. We’ll just go with residential home. I’m going to list the entire home. I’m sure they won’t mind moving out for a little bit.
So now, let’s add my address, 2321 River Road, Niskayuna. Niskayuna, some people call it Nisky for short. Looks good, and here we are right on River Road, intersecting this wonderful stream. It’s a great destination for travelers. And here we are. Now, look what just happened. This imported the right number of bedrooms and baths. The reason we were able to do this is we were able to take publicly available real estate data and import them to save hosts extra steps. And it adds the amenities in my house. We have a pool. Now it’s not heated, so any pool in Niskayuna is really a nice bath, but it’s good if you have swelling in your body. Here we are, indoor fireplace, a kitchen. I’m going to add WiFi. We kind of have WiFi. We have free parking, with air conditioning, we have a smoke alarm. And yeah, I had a lock on my door. You needed that growing up.
Now this is cool. I’m going to add some photos. So hold on, let me show you this. Let’s take a look at some of the photos of me growing up. So this is my family room. You got some nice memorabilia. The living room, three rocking chairs, so the whole family could rock together. Here’s my childhood bedroom. You’re going to see my drafting table, where I used to draw and design on the right. Here’s the view of my bed. That’s the bed that you’ll sleep in. It’s actually a bed that was made for a tiny child. All right, here we go. You’re going have the great one, my idol growing up, Wayne Gretzky, looking over you while you sleep. And some old rusty skates. You probably can’t fit your feet in them, but here you are. We’re going to drag them, drop them.
Now this next thing is pretty cool, because what we do is we use machine learning to automatically analyze each photo for quality, and then we placed them in the optimal order to boost their appeal. So here we go. Look at this. It knew to put the triple rocking chair photo, and we knew to make that one the primary photo. So now I’m going to keep going and I’m going to come up with a title. Now, we pre-populated a title here. It said, cheerful four-bedroom residential home with a pool. So we really try to come up with a title for you, but I think I can be a little more creative. And I think the word cheerful, I don’t want to over promise. So let’s see. Niskayuna were known as Nisky. I think I might go with Nisky Business. Let’s go with Nisky Business. There we go. I think it’s going to be nice. Mom and dad are going to love this.
Now, we can choose attributes. This helps you write a description. So I’m going to go with unique and I’m going to say stylish. I think that certainly had some style. Now we have a place getting started. I’m going to say, let’s see, “Come stay in Niskayuna, some say the new Paris, where my mom can make you a quiche in the morning and yell at you at night to do your homework.” All right, there we go. And now, last thing is we offer a price criteria. Now, I’m going to try to get some business. I really want to fill this house for my parents. They’re going to love all these guests. And a few more questions. We have a security camera. We don’t have any weapons. We do have a golden retriever. I don’t think she counts as a dangerous animal.
So I’m going to publish the listing. And so, here we go. Here’s the preview, Nisky Business in famous Niskayuna, New York, the soon-to-be international travel destination, and I’m going to publish it. And here we are. And boom, here we are. Welcome, congratulations, Brian. I congratulate myself. Awesome. And here I am with my parents’ dog, Sandy. And that’s it. So once you list, it’s very likely that you’ll get booked. In fact, for new listings that were activated and booked in Q1 2021, half received a reservation within four days of activation. For existing hosts, we’ve created better tools to help them succeed. We’ve made dozens of upgrades. Let me just show you a few.
Now here’s the updated host side of the app. Let me start by showing you the new tabs. Profile is now Menu. Performance is renamed Insights. Now, Listings was not commonly used by hosts, so we’ve put listings under Menu. With Inbox, it’s now up to 10 times faster and completely redesigned, with features like scheduled messages and quick replies. And finally, we freed up some space for a brand new feature, we call the Today tab. The Today tab shows hosts what they need to do today in one place. For new hosts, we help you prepare for your guests and customize your calendar and pricing and set other controls you need. You’ll also find relevant articles, and you can learn from Superhost in an online class or one-on-one session. For existing hosts, the Today tab personalizes for them as well. Oh, look, it tells me I have a reservation. Is that Wayne Gretzky who just booked my Nisky Business? All right, well, I guess he’s going to be staying in my tiny childhood bedroom.
And we have a Next Steps For You section, where you can track local trends and fine-tune your pricing. And we also customize articles and videos for existing hosts. Not only have we improved our tools for our hosts, we’ve also improved community support. We’ve heard from our hosts. Last year, our community support wasn’t where it should be. After our business dropped, we reduced the size of our community support team, and we did not have enough agents to be prepared for the rebound. So this year, we have doubled the number of support agents. This allows us to be faster and more responsible when you need help. We’ve also more than tripled the number of languages we provide support in. Before, you could get support in 11 languages. Now, you can get support when you need it in 42 languages. We heard you, Iceland.
Finally, for our best host, we are introducing dedicated Superhost support, with priority service from our most experienced support agents. This means fewer transfers, fewer escalations, and more authority to resolve issues for you. This will be available to all Superhosts in North America by September 30th, and will be available worldwide to Superhosts December 15th. So those are just some of the highlights from the Airbnb 2021 release, and you’ll find them all listed on our website. And here they all are: flexibility designed for the new world of travel; a simpler and more inspiring guest experience, I mean, literally there’s dozens of upgrades just for guests here; easier ways to host, from sign-up to Superhost, with a new welcome page, become a host in 10 steps and the Today tab; and finally, world-class support for our global community, with upgrades like the redesigned help center, dedicated Superhost support, and expansion to 42 languages.
You can learn more about each of these upgrades on airbnb.com/2021. Now, we’ve just talked about a hundred new upgrades that will make Airbnb better, but the one thing that makes Airbnb really magical hasn’t changed a bit. I’d like to end with a story, a story about a boy named Rio.
Rio likes cowboys, and thanks to Rob, Rio gets to be a cowboy at least for the weekend, because Rob is a host who owns a tiny house on a gigantic ranch in Sandy Valley, Nevada. And for the next few days, Rio will roam the open frontier. He’ll tame wild stallions, prospect for gold, and chase down the bad guys. He’ll even learn that being a cowboy is pretty hard work. The days are long, the nights are cold, and the best way to stay warm is to stay together. Rob and his tiny house, made it possible for Rio to find his Wild Wild West. And every day, guests all around the world are also experiencing new possibilities. Thanks to their host. Possibilities for connection, for discovery, for joy, for love. Yes, travel is changing, but what people have always needed, those things will never change, and they’ll always be made possible by hosts.
It is clear that Airbnb has been paying attention to the hosts’ calls for support, which has become something of a mutual pressure point for hosts and Airbnb over the past year and a half. It is also clear that Airbnb is taking steps to fully lean into becoming a lifestyle brand as it had hoped to, as guests opt for longer stays, more unusual locations, and break free from the idea of seasonal holidays to opt for a lifestyle change instead.
Will these changes be enough to slow down or make a dent in the ongoing book direct movement or will hosts continue to seek independence from OTAs such as Airbnb? Let us know what you think in our private Facebook group.