Paris, the City of Love — and Airbnb. Photo: Chris Karidis on Unsplash

Airbnb is a hot button topic. Has it peaked? Is it too expensive? Don’t expect to book one in New York City anymore — unless you plan on staying for at least 30 days. We tuned into Skift Global Forum last week, where Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky took the stage (virtually, because he was in Europe checking out the Airbnb offices — unclear if he stayed in an Airbnb or opted for a hotel or some other type of accommodation) to talk about what’s next for the platform. The Escape Home’s Danielle Hyams has the takeaways.

The golden days of Airbnb in the U.S. might be over as rules and regulations dampen business — but it’s still going strong in cities around the world.

Did you know that Paris is the #1 city in the world for Airbnb? The platform expects to see more than 500,000 people book accommodations during the three-week period around the 2024 Summer Olympics. According to Chesky, a survey conducted by Deloitte found that 20% of Parisians are interested in renting out their living space on Airbnb during that time.  (As an aside, the capital of France is currently experiencing a serious bed bug infestation that’s causing worry before the arrival of millions of visitors during the Olympics.)

NYC is a “cautionary tale” that will become less affordable and accessible to travelers. 

Chesky warned that New York City is going to become more expensive for visitors following the city’s “de facto ban” of the platform.  “I was always hopeful that New York City would lead the way and that we would find a solution in New York,” said Chesky. “Unfortunately, New York is no longer leading the way. It’s probably a cautionary tale.” The city, which more than a decade ago represented the majority of Airbnb’s business, recently began enforcing strict new rules that require all hosts to register with the city. To be eligible, hosts must live in the place they’re renting and be present during guests’ stay, which must be at least 30 days. “I think the consequence of this is going to be that next year, hotel rates will be more expensive, and the reason why is we’re not going to be building 20,000 more hotel rooms,” he added. “So, it’s going to be more expensive to stay in New York, and I think that’s unfortunate.” Chesky stopped short of blaming hotel lobbyists, but said that they were “absolutely at the table” during the decision making, adding that he doesn’t feel that for Airbnb to win, hotels need to lose.

U.S. customers need to get used to up-front pricing.

Junk fees, those annoying surcharges you pay on everything from hotel rooms to concert tickets, are an annoyance that may be uniquely American — many other countries have regulations in place mandating that these fees be displayed up front. And Airbnb has faced plenty of complaints about their own fees — service and cleaning add-ons that can at times essentially double the cost of the listing. It’s added an option where users can toggle to have the total price, including fees (but minus taxes), displayed. Chesky hopes that using this feature becomes the standard. “We want to train the customer over the next year or two to turn on up-front pricing. When enough American travelers and customers are trained, we would like to move to having that be on by default for everybody. But we want people to know that our prices are shown differently than competitors’,”  he said, adding that perhaps one day there will be regulation that will create a level playing field.

Cleaning fees could be eliminated (kind of, but not really). 

“There’s a reason why cleaning fees exist at Airbnbs. At hotels, obviously they have people on staff who clean and they bake the cost of cleaning into the nightly rate,” Chesky said. “So the way we are solving this is… as the guest is concerned when they turn that toggle on, they’re never going to see a cleaning fee. It’s going to be baked into that nightly rate, just like a hotel without cleaning fees.” 

Airbnb is still affordable… at least according to its founder.

“When we started Airbnb the original tagline was ‘an affordable alternative to a hotel,’” he said.“I was 26 when I started this and I want to know in my heart that the 26-year-old me would still use Airbnb today, and if that’s true then it would have to be affordable.”

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