By The Hospitable Team
In May this year, Airbnb announced its new “Summer Release”, which it promised would usher in “a new world of travel”.
But with new changes comes uncertainty. New features such as Airbnb Categories, Split Stays, and AirCover for Guests provided new possibilities for guests, but didn’t quite explain what would happen to hosts who feared they would lose visibility and income as a result.
With stays now available in more than 100,000 towns and cities, the struggle to be seen has never been tougher, and this new release might seem like yet another thing making it more difficult.
But, good news! With a few small tweaks, hosts like you can ensure that your pages continue to rank highly on Airbnb searches, so you can maintain views, conversions, and income.
To offer even more insight, we’ve talked to Jasper Ribbers, Airbnb expert and Co-Founder of Overnight Success and Get Paid for Your Pad, and also included our top tips on how to reduce your reliance on Airbnb.
We’ve also explored how a tool like Hospitable.com can make managing your listings even easier (no matter what update Airbnb decides to announce next).
What is the Airbnb 2022 Summer Release?
Airbnb called its Summer Release “the biggest change to Airbnb in a decade”, hot on the heels of the 150 updates to its platforms and systems that it had rolled out the year before.
“The way people travel has changed forever,” said Brian Chesky, CEO and Co-Founder of Airbnb in a statement, and confirmed three major new features:
“People are more flexible about where they live and work,” said Brian Chesky, “so we’ve designed a new way to search with Airbnb Categories.”
Just as it sounds, Airbnb Categories split properties into a brand new range of categories, organizing homes by style and feature. This means that users can search by category, rather than relying on typing in a destination and date.
There are 55 categories in total, including everything from A-frames and Amazing pools, to Creative spaces, Domes, Grand Pianos, National parks, Riads, OMG!, and Yurts.
Airbnb says it will help users to “discover millions of homes you never knew existed” and “alleviate over-tourism by redistributing travel to new locations”.
“People are taking longer trips,” said Brian Chesky, “so we created Split Stays to give you more options by splitting your trip between two homes.”
With people working remotely and going away for longer, they’re increasingly choosing to mix up their stay and experience two different places, with increasing numbers staying for 14 days or more.
Split Stays are just that; ways for users to split longer trips between two homes and destinations. Split Stay options and suggestions show up automatically in search results and categories.
AirCover for Guests
In direct response to the Covid pandemic, Airbnb’s final major change was AirCover for Guests, which it said was designed to increase protection for people who will be traveling “for the first time since the start of the pandemic” in summer 2022.
AirCover, Brian Chesky said, is “giving you the confidence to book knowing that Airbnb’s got your back.”
AirCover for Guests offers four new services. These are:
- Booking Protection Guarantee – Airbnb will find guests a similar or better home, or a refund, if a host needs to cancel within 30 days of check-in.
- Check-In Guarantee – Airbnb will find guests a similar or better home, or a refund, if they can’t check in and the host can’t resolve the issue.
- Get-What-You-Booked Guarantee – Airbnb will find guests a similar or better home, or a refund, if the listing isn’t as advertised (such as if there are fewer bedrooms than listed), if the guest reports this within three days of check-in.
- 24-Hour Safety Line – Priority access to what Airbnb calls “specially-trained safety agents” day or night, if guests ever feel unsafe.
How does the Airbnb 2022 Summer Release affect hosts?
With changes to how listings appear in searches, more categories, and new “protections” that guests can turn to, the Airbnb 2022 Summer Release will have some implications for hosts.
Looking at each change in turn, this includes:
With 55 new categories, listings technically have more chance to show up in searches, and more unusual or interesting features may be highlighted.
Similarly, a major aim of categories is to enable lesser-seen listings to gain more views.
Making this work to your advantage could seriously pay off—although it’s not yet possible to manually ensure that your listing sits in a particular category.
However, Airbnb says that the majority of guests are still continuing “to book stays by entering a specific destination and travel dates in search”, so many listings will still show up in the usual way.
The platform has said that it is also considering adding more categories to encompass more homes (such as Family-friendly, or Remote offices), which may help add visibility to more properties.
Airbnb estimates that Split Stays mean that users will now see 40% more listings when searching for trips of 14 days or more, with multiple properties displayed for recommended Split Stays in search results.
This theoretically gives hosts another bite of the cherry (more views and listings) as one trip no longer necessarily equals just one single booked place.
Longer stays can also benefit your hosting business, because:
- They reduce your workload significantly while still ensuring you get regular income
- You (or your housekeeping staff) have fewer turnarounds to manage
- You have less need to secure new bookings
- There is a lower risk of issues with check-in or arrival (due to their being fewer arrivals)
- There is less risk of cancellations (as you have fewer bookings overall)
- You have less need to communicate with prospective guests because there are fewer new guests—but you still maintain higher occupancy and earnings throughout.
AirCover for Guests (and Hosts)
Much like other Airbnb “protections”, AirCover for Guests doesn’t replace insurance, but it’s definitely something that hosts need to be aware of to avoid unnecessary guest confrontation, bad reviews, or refunds.
- Booking Protection Guarantee – As always, Airbnb wants to discourage Hosts from canceling on guests. This is similar to Superhost rules, which also discourage cancellations.
- Check-In Guarantee – Hosts must ensure their guests can check in, and that if any issues happen, you’re able to resolve them quickly to guarantee access.
- Get-What-You-Booked Guarantee – Hosts should ensure their listing shows their space accurately, and that problems can be resolved quickly. Airbnb says that even something like a broken refrigerator could be cause for a refund or move, so maintaining good repair (and having a plan if something goes wrong) has never been more essential.
- 24-Hour Safety Line – Hosts must do everything they can to ensure that guests feel safe and secure in their properties, including ensuring security, access, lighting, privacy, and respect.
Airbnb always recommends that guests contact hosts first in case of any issues, and Community Support prefers to step in only if hosts cannot be contacted or the issue cannot be resolved that way.
Guests will usually only be eligible for refunds for nights of their booking not spent in your home.
While AirCover for Guests might not offer much in the way of direct advantages for hosts, it does mean that guests may be more likely to book, and feel more comfortable staying with you, which is a real plus.
It also comes just a few months after AirCover for Hosts was introduced.
This included $1 million in Host damage protection and $1 million in Host liability insurance, plus
damage protection, income loss protection, protection for pet and smoke damage, deep cleaning help, and a 14-day window to claim reimbursement for damage even if new guests have arrived.
AirCover for Hosts is intended to help hold guests more accountable for damage, and enable you to raise the issue with Community Support within 24 hours, rather than the previous 72 hours—all measures that Airbnb is hoping will improve life for hosts.
7 ways hosts can take advantage of the changes in the Airbnb 2022 Summer Release
The new 2022 Summer Release may seem daunting to some hosts.
“Some hosts have completely lost momentum,” says Jasper, co-founder of the STR community Overnight Success, who runs the educational website Get Paid for Your Pad (and co-wrote a book of the same name in 2014), and is an expert in Airbnb hosting.
“Hosts who’ve been close to fully occupied for years have suddenly said that their bookings have completely dried up,” he says. “Maybe their listing just ‘fell into a little crack’ in the new update.
“However, the numbers suggest that bookings haven’t really dropped off. So if you optimize your listings to show up, you’re probably going to see an increase in demand.”
As a result, with a few changes, the new release could actually work to hosts’ advantage. We recommend starting with the following tips.
1. Tailor your listing details to Categories
Tweaking your listings to better satisfy the new Categories makes them much more likely to stand out in the new release.
Making sure that your photos and descriptions highlight key features such as exquisite design, a chef’s kitchen, a stunning view, or close access to a national park, beach or lake will make it more likely that your homes stand out.
Ultimately, says Jasper, Airbnb is working to put unique stays and experiences front and center.
“Brian Chesky has strong convictions that people want unique experiences,” he says. “So if you’re not providing a unique experience, and you don’t know why people should stay with you versus the place next door, Airbnb is less likely to show you to users.
“It’s about providing an experience rather than just providing a space.”
Providing an excellent experience isn’t just about doing well on Airbnb, either. It’s good practice in general, whether you get most of your bookings from Airbnb, direct, or multiple channels.
Going above and beyond for guests helps you build your brand, establish great relationships, keeps guests coming back, and increases the chance that they’ll book directly with you next time (saving you fees and strengthening the relationship further).
2. Update your listings and amenities
Items and features within homes, as well as the areas surrounding them, are also a major part of the new release. Taking some time to tweak and update your amenities list will help your place sing.
Keeping your listings updated will more accurately showcase your home, and give you a chance to ensure any new facilities are included. You could also go one step further, and invest in new amenities that are more likely to attract guests.
Guests are currently especially likely to choose places with free parking, good WiFi, and suitability for pets, Airbnb has said, according to new search data. Other popular features include a pool, hot tub, washer-dryer, kitchen facilities, air-con or heating, and a laptop-friendly workplace.
“If you have a pool and you’re not showing up in that category,” explains Jasper, “then I think you have a real chance of getting there if you make it more obvious in your listing that you have an amazing pool. Is it in your captions? Do you have good pictures?”
Self-check-in, with a keycode or digital entry system that doesn’t require an in-person meeting, is also popular. A platform like Hospitable.com can help you to coordinate self-check-in easily with smart lock integration, and automated messaging that sends guests everything they need to gain access ahead of time.
3. Ask guests to highlight specific features in their reviews
Once you’ve made an effort to add more popular features and amenities, it makes sense to point them out to guests when asking them for a review!
Some hosts find that they like to suggest elements guests might mention in reviews after they check out, as a strategic way to increase the chance those features will be mentioned in the final write-up.
As Jason Wolohan, successful host of a six-person Airbnb cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, points out: “I intentionally give guests examples of things that I know are worthy of five stars because 1) I know that some people have a hard time articulating why they enjoyed an experience, and 2) because I know these items set me apart from the competitors in my market, so I want future guests to see them in the review.”
Similarly, Jasper says that asking guests to mention key features, such as your fabulous pool, in their reviews, makes it more likely that Airbnb will pick up on that and add you to its pool category.
With Hospitable, you can automate review requests and send the same message each time (personalized to the guest), so it’s easy to add these details to your messages consistently, boosting the chance that guests will mention it time and time again.
4. Add more high-quality photos
Airbnb has clearly stated that adding more high-quality photos to your listings is far more likely to make it stand out and be featured.
The platform does offer pro photography packages for that extra-special touch, but it also offers good advice on how to take stellar photos using nothing but your smartphone—including lighting, composition, focus, close-ups, and more.
Photos that highlight key amenities, local attractions and features, and facilities that you want to ensure guests see before booking will also help boost interest. Guests usually want to see everything from the amazing balcony view and bedroom space, right down to the brand of soap, coffee machine, steps to the home, and even the exact thickness of the towels.
The more details the better—if a guest can see themselves in your space, the more likely they will be to book. Adding descriptive and useful captions so guests know exactly what they’re looking at is also a great idea.
Uploading more photos also increases the chance that guests will have an accurate idea of what they’re booking, minimizing the chance of any surprises, bad experiences, or refund requests upon arrival.
5. Revamp your listing titles
The Airbnb 2022 Summer Release also included a change to listing titles. It removed Host-written titles from search results in a bid to make titles more consistent and easier to read (according to Airbnb, anyway).
However, this change has now been reversed, after a passionate backlash from hosts. And there are still best-practice tips to follow to ensure your title works as hard as possible for you, to attract more views and more conversions.
- Keep your titles short, otherwise they get cut off on search results. Mobile phones only show the first 32 characters, so make sure the most important elements are upfront.
- Avoid ALL CAPS and Title Case Like This. Airbnb says it’s easier for users to read and engage with titles that are written normally, to avoid it sounding like you’re shouting.
- Avoid too many emojis, symbols, or exclamation marks. These can mean different things to different people, making them unclear and open to misinterpretation. Emojis also use up valuable character space that could be used to add more description.
- Add more details rather than repeating what guests already know. For example, avoid stating the city your place is in (London), and rather explain what neighborhood it’s in specifically (“Waterloo”), or features it’s close to (“10-minutes from the Tate Gallery”).
6. Test your WiFi speed and update it if necessary
As more people travel and work, WiFi speed is becoming increasingly important.
Airbnb has stated that a major motivation behind its Split Stays feature was the rising number of people taking longer trips because they’re able to work remotely, so ensuring an excellent internet connection is paramount to enable longer bookings.
Poor WiFi, on listings that state a good connection, can even be considered grounds for a refund under the new protection rules. Consider testing your WiFi speed (it’s easy and free; simply Google “Internet speed test”) and ensure it’s fast and reliable enough for work.
Of course, speeds will vary depending on remoteness and the connections available in your location, but providers generally suggest that you’ll need to provide 5-10Mpbs of download speed and at least 1Mbps of upload speed per person for manageable work.
You can also include a screenshot of your WiFi speed test result and add it to your listing photos as proof of your connection, especially if it’s particularly high. Guests who are looking for great WiFi will love to see it.
Similarly, using a tool like Hospitable.com also enables you to answer prospective guests’ questions about WiFi automatically, even before they book. Hospitable’s AI system is smart enough to tell the difference between a pre-booking message and an in-stay question, so you can tailor your responses to common pre-booking queries (like whether you have it, and the speed).
In contrast, guests that are already staying are more likely to be asking for the password, or asking for help if they’re having trouble connecting. Tailoring messages like this proves to guests that you take their WiFi needs seriously (super-important in today’s remote working, connected age).
7. Consider accessibility
Airbnb has made a series of changes in recent years to make it easier for guests to search for accessibility features.
To attract the widest range of guests and ensure your place is open to everyone, consider introducing (or simply highlighting) facilities such as step-free entrances, ground-floor bedrooms, a wheelchair-suitable wide entrance (at least 32 inches / 82 cm), accessible parking, step-free shower and bathroom grab bars.
You could even add ramps, highlight elevators, and make sure these features are clearly displayed on your listing.
Of course, not every home can be made accessible (such as, say, treehouses or very old buildings), but if there is a way to make aspects of your home more accessible and friendly to people with disabilities or wheelchair users, do it.
This will ensure your place shows up in more search results and can be booked by more people.
Don’t rely on Airbnb
Airbnb is a fantastic platform that many hosts use for a substantial portion of their revenue. At Hospitable.com, we’re not anti-Airbnb; quite the opposite in fact. Our platform works as a seamless “plug-in” to Airbnb that can help users get the absolute most out of their listings on the site.
But relying on Airbnb alone opens your vacation rental business up to uncertainty, including major and perhaps-unexpected changes such as this 2022 Summer Release.
We recommend that professional hosts use different ways to secure bookings, so as not to rely entirely on a single platform, and instead build an online portal that you actually own.
As Jasper says: “Airbnb is a marketing platform. It’s not your business. If you want to be here for the long haul and build a real company, you can’t rely on Airbnb. That can kill your business. Instead you want to build a brand, include direct bookings, and build your own marketing strategies.”
That’s why one of the most sustainable ways to boost bookings is to build your website specially designed for vacation rentals, such as by using Hospitable.com’s Direct feature.
Get a direct booking website within minutes!
This enables you to get bookings from guests directly without paying fees or having to go through Airbnb. You can also embed Hospitable Direct’s widget into an existing website, so you can still make full use of its must-have tools, such as calendar syncing and automated messaging.
With your own website, you’ll actually own the platform, remain in control of any changes, and won’t have to pay as much in fees.
Airbnb (and other platforms such as Vrbo) can be extremely valuable sources of revenue, but diversifying booking channels using a tool like Hospitable.com’s Channel manager feature and the Direct tool, can make your business much more resilient to change and challenges.
The Airbnb 2022 Summer Release: Make it work for you
The Airbnb 2022 Summer Release may seem daunting, but with a few tweaks to your listings and approach, it could actually reap major benefits for hosts like you.
Categories could help you stand out more and be seen by new users, Split Stays could boost longer stays and increase the chances of your listing being seen by up to 40%, while AirCover for Guests is likely to push up bookings overall.
Tailoring your listings to the new Categories, highlighting popular amenities, adding better-quality photos, increasing WiFi speed, improving accessibility, and tweaking your listing titles are a few ways that hosts can adapt to the changes with gusto.
Shifting your strategy away from purely relying on Airbnb is always a good idea too. With Hospitable.com, you can attract more direct bookings, and automate changes across platforms to manage your short-term rental business more efficiently, easily, and profitably.
With specially-designed tools, you can ensure your business goes from strength to strength no matter what new releases or changes Airbnb might dream up next. Happy summer!
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Quynh Vu went from being a full-time pharmacist to a short-term rental host managing six properties across three states with her husband Tri in just two years. Quynh and Tri switched to automation with Hospitable.com, which was a complete game-changer.
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