Airbnb is pushing out several new safety features in the wake of a tragic incident at one of their bookings, CEO Brian Chesky announced Wednesday.
The new changes involve four key features:
- Airbnb will 100% verify all listings.
- It will establish a “guest guarantee” in case guests arrive at a listing that does not match its online description.
- Airbnb will create a 24/7 “neighbor hotline” staffed by real people.
- The company will conduct manual reviews of high-risk listings.
The changes come after five people died last week in a so-called “party house” rented through Airbnb in California. The company announced it would ban party houses from its platform following the incident.
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“Ultimately, we’re in the business of trust,” Chesky said Wednesday at The New York Times DealBook Conference, adding that he believes the changes “will provide a lot more peace of mind.”
The manual review of high-risk listings likely would have come into play in the case of the California listing, which was rented for one night on Halloween by a guest who lived nearby. The guest claimed to be escaping wildfire fumes, USA Today reported, and the host had reminded the guest that the house did not permit parties.
The guest guarantee comes after a Vice report on a widespread scam where hosts would inform guests at the last minute that their reserved property was unavailable, and ask them to book a different property. The listings for the substitute properties often contained fake information, including photos that looked much more attractive than the actual property. Airbnb had been reluctant to provide full refunds in these cases, according to the report.
Chesky said the neighbor hotline has been a highly-requested feature. With the verified listings and guest guarantees, Chesky said he wants customers to be able to trust their listings and have “peace of mind.” Guests will be provided an Airbnb of greater or equal value if their reserved listing does not match the description, Chesky said, and if that cannot be provided, they will get a full refund. Chesky said the company is aiming to review every host listing by the end of next year to verify addresses, photos and identities.
Chesky later hinted that Airbnb is leaning toward pursuing a direct listing over an IPO. He said he couldn’t comment on direct listing, but added that “we don’t need to raise new money.” Several other tech companies have recently pursued direct listings, foregoing the traditional path to the public market, like Slack and Spotify.
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