Airbnb introduces features based on guest preferences; Global head (Ops) terms India as high growth market, ET TravelWorld
10 mins read

Airbnb introduces features based on guest preferences; Global head (Ops) terms India as high growth market, ET TravelWorld


After the introduction of rooms and new host pricing tools in May and updates on lower prices and verified listings this September, homestays and short-term rental platform, Airbnb has announced major upgrades and new features to address top suggestions from its community. Breaking the news, Tara Bunch, Global Head of Operations, Airbnb shared details on the three big upgrade areas being rolled out by the platform for the winter release.

The new upgrades
“The first big upgrade is the guest favorites, which is a new category,” said Bunch. “We have taken 2 million of our most loved Airbnb listings (the most dynamic ones from among 7 million listings) based on ratings, reviews, reliability, quality of the listing and highlighted the top guest favorites. These listings will have a badge that would indicate that they are a guest favorite, so other guests can easily find them when searching for a listing,” said Bunch.

“We are also revamping our ratings and review pages to include a number of new features that now allow guests to sort reviews and be able to see more relevant information,” shared Bunch on the second upgrade. The feature includes reviews based on distribution, star ratings, user and host behaviour and suggestions based on comparison of similar amenities, among others. “The idea is to make the listings more relevant and helpful for guests. We would like to give them much more visibility and a lot more information before they book,” she said.

Accor announces 2nd Pullman hotel in India, set to open in 2027

The second Pullman hotel after the one in Delhi will be opened in Amritsar and is set to open its doors in 2027. Accor’s portfolio in India already boasts 61 properties under brands like Raffles, Fairmont, Sofitel, Pullman, Grand Mercure, Novotel, Mercure, and ibis. With a strong pipeline of 30 properties under development in India, Pullman Amritsar adds to the diverse range of options available to travellers across the country.

And, the third big upgrade is the listings tab. “This is for hosts,” said Bunch. “It essentially is a part of the host application where you check out the amenities in the listing,” she said. The upgrade has these amenities organised into groups (like bathroom amenities, bedroom amenities outside amenities, kitchen amenities, living room amenities) and allows the host to go through – room by room – and look at a smaller list and click the ones that are relevant for them.“What has us excited is that not only will there be more information about the listing, it would also allow current hosts to go back and play with this new listings tab. This would help guests find all the amenities in the listing, and at the same time, help the host to highlight just how many amenities their listing has,” said Bunch.

The other upgrades feature improved competitive pricing and feature comparison tools for hosts for more visibility. “The hosts would now be able to compare service fees, cleaning fees being charged by similar facilities. And the guests would be able to see which listing would give them the best deal in the same neighbourhood with similar size and amenities. “We think this will really help hosts to ensure that they remain competitive from a pricing standpoint,” she said.

AI playing pioneering role in reshaping future of hospitality industry: Sabre's Scott Wilson

Wilson explained that over 50 per cent of Sabre’s business is outside of North America, with India being a significant part of the company’s portfolio. Sabre works with a variety of partners in India and takes an open approach by using open APIs to integrate with providers of travel and tourism services. This approach allows for flexibility in adopting technology solutions, making it accessible to a broad range of hotels.

“The other improvements for the host include an earnings dashboard and some new features around co-host messaging and co-host payouts being able to split them between, a host and a co-host,” added Bunch.

While the Guest Favorites, revamped ratings and reviews, the new Listings tab, and additional upgrades for hosts will begin rolling out this week, hosts can try new features today by enrolling in Airbnb Early Access, AirBnb said.

Smart lock integration will be coming to Early Access for listings in the US and Canada later this year. Pricing visibility and compare prices will be available next year, it added.

“Pricing is a big deal for guests and hosts. The leaning in on those pricing tools as well as pricing transparency has been a focus and as the platform has grown and become bigger, a lot more options are now available to guests. We just want to make it easier for them to find that perfect listing for them,” said Bunch.

The India market
“India is one of our most important highest growth markets – both from a guest and host standpoint – and we are incredibly committed to this market. It is also an important market to us from a talent standpoint. We recently opened up the India hub tech hub in Bangalore and we continue to invest heavily there,” said Bunch.

“From a growth standpoint, Asia Pacific as a region has fully recovered to pre pandemic levels. We are seeing great growth, gross nights growing 23% in Q3 of 2023 compared to 2019. That’s massive growth in such a large region. Nights and experiences booked grew 27% in Q3 compared to 2022 so that’s another big, large growth and impact,” she said.

Goa Caravan & Homestay policy out; big sops for establishments, infra

Under the new policies, the first 100 homestays will get INR 2L grant and up to 20L for caravan infra. Additionally, the initial 100 Bed & Breakfast establishments that have successfully completed one year and are registered with the tourism department can claim reimbursement of INR 1,000 registration fee. Property and road taxes will also be subject to reimbursement. The new Carvan policy allows the private operators to establish standalone caravan parks at scenic locations.

“In addition to it being one of our biggest growth markets, it is a market that – looking at the Oxford Economics report – showed that we supported over 85,000 jobs and contributed over 920 million dollars to India’s GDP between April of 2022 and March of 2023. We are making a big impact in the economy,” Bunch said.

According to Bunch, the new travel culture among the middle class has played a big role in its growth. “In India, millennials are leading the chart when it comes to bookings on Airbnb, followed by GenZs and GenXs. India is eager to travel and explore the world. So we think it’s a huge opportunity for us to grow,” said Bunch.

Building partnerships
“On our part, we have been working closely with the local governments to highlight India and properties in India,” said Bunch. Airbnb recently signed a MoU with the Ministry of Tourism to showcase India’s rich cultural heritage through a spotlight on heritage stays across the country. At the state level, over the last year, it signed MoUs with Goa, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, among others, to promote lesser-known destinations, conduct capacity-building workshops and raise awareness amongst communities on how to leverage their homes to reap economic benefits.

“There’s a lot of work happening in these areas. We are looking at these government partnerships as one of a critical approach to building the tourism ecosystem in India and through that also promoting more homestays,” she said.

Gwalior’s UNESCO designation in Creative Cities network to boost intl tourism: MPTB

Besides Gwalior, the UNESCO Creative Cities Network welcomed a diverse array of new members, including another Indian city, Kozhikode. Each of these contributed their unique cultural strengths to the global stage. These cities, representing seven fields including Crafts and Folk Art, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Media Arts and Music, were recognised for their commitment to integrating culture and creativity into their development strategies.

Women and economic empowerment
“Hosting, a home or a room in your home in one of those areas, can create a lot of economic empowerment in smaller, maybe non-urban communities where this is an excellent opportunity to make some extra money for your family. In particular, it’s a great opportunity for women,” said Bunch.

“Women hosts in India earned over 1.6 billion Indian rupees in the first 3 quarters of this year. In fact, a third of guest favorites in India are hosted by women. It’s a huge opportunity for economic empowerment of women. And more broadly, all Indians are particularly helpful in terms of spreading tourism to more rural communities, low density urban communities, and empowering local people who are looking for that extra money and can really help them make ends meet,” she added.

Growing preference for hosted accommodations
According to Airbnb, most popular outbound destinations for Indian travellers (based on nights booked data in India when comparing January 1 to September 30 2023, with the same period last year) were UK, US, Canada, UAE, France, Italy, Germany, Indonesia and Thailand.

“North America and Western Europe have long been popular outbound destinations for travellers from India. These destinations also factor into the popular psyche by featuring in Bollywood films,” she shared.

“Post pandemic we have seen different countries open up at different rates. But in Southeast Asia, we have seen a lot of growth in Korea and Japan. Travel and visas have become easier and people are feeling safe travelling. We saw domestic travel continue to remain pretty strong. And now we are seeing cross border travel increasing. It is exciting to see a really positive upside in our markets in Asia,” she concluded.

  • Published On Nov 8, 2023 at 07:17 PM IST

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