Airbnb announced a handful of updates to its platform on Wednesday, with CEO Brian Chesky billing it as “the biggest change to Airbnb in a decade.”
The features, announced during its virtual summer event, include a new way to search, the option to split stays between homes and additional guest protections. The updated app and new features roll out in the U.S. on Wednesday and globally this week, ahead of what’s anticipated to be a busy summer travel season.
In its earnings report earlier this month, Airbnb gave an upbeat forecast for the second quarter and said nights and experiences booked surpassed pre-pandemic levels.
Here’s what’s new:
Airbnb is introducing a search function designed to make it easier for users to discover homes in locations they may not have thought to search for.
When a user opens the platform, they’ll be presented with 56 categories that organize homes based on their style, location or proximity to a travel activity. If a person searches for a particular place, the results are also organized by categories that are relevant to the destination.
Style categories range from “amazing views” to “earth homes.” Location categories include places such as national parks and vineyards, while activity categories include things like camping and golfing.
“Airbnb Categories organize homes by what makes them unique, which helps people discover places they wouldn’t have otherwise found. This can help alleviate over-tourism by redistributing travel to new locations beyond the same popular destinations,” the company said in a release.
Airbnb has found interest in these types of travel experiences. Nights booked in the first quarter of 2022 for summer travel to unique homes increased 80% compared to 2019, the company said.
Airbnb is expanding its travel protection service, AirCover, to guests. Previously, the protection was only available for hosts to cover things like damages and liability. The service is included in all bookings and is free.
The new update will provide a booking protection guarantee, so if a host cancels a booking within 30 days of check-in, the company pledges to find a similar or improved home or refund the customer. It will also include a check-in guarantee, so if a customer finds they can’t check into a home and the host can’t resolve the issue, the company promises it will find a similar or better home for the length of the original stay or offer a refund.
Users will also have three days to report listings if they aren’t as advertised. For example, if there are fewer bedrooms than listed, the customer can report it and will be placed in another listing or refunded. Airbnb is also adding a 24-hour safety line for customers, in 16 languages.
“AirCover has been designed directly into the Airbnb app and website, making it easy for you to contact an agent and resolve issues quickly. We created a team of specially trained agents for last-minute rebooking assistance,” the company said.
The Covid-19 pandemic and the trend of remote work, which has seen people stay in destinations for longer, helped drive the split stays feature. Now Airbnb will now let people divide their trips between two homes.
Split stays will automatically appear in search results for specific destinations and 14 categories, including national parks and skiing, to show users they can stay in two destinations for a longer trip, the company said.
“For example, when browsing the National Parks Category, Split Stays might suggest a pair of homes near Zion National Park and Grand Canyon,” Airbnb said in its release.
If a user views split stays on a map, an animated line will visually connect the two homes to show the distance between them and the sequence of stays. Once people decide to book, they’ll be guided through an interface to set each booking one at a time.