Airbnb users are about to have a better sense of what they’re signing up for when they book supposedly affordable weekend getaway listings.
CEO Brian Chesky announced a number of new transparency features impacting the way it displays prices in a tweet Monday, including a new toggle feature which will display cleaning fees and other additional compulsory charges. Users who click the new “Display total price” toggle feature will see the true total price of their trip, before taxes, in search results as well as on the app’s map and on listing pages. The tool attempts to address growing criticism from some users who claimed the app’s nightly rates, which don’t clearly include additional fees, made certain listings appear more affordable than they actually were.
Additionally, Chesky said Airbnb will provide a full price breakdown of the app’s service fees, and discounts and will begin prioritizing total listing prices over nightly prices in its search algorithm, regardless of whether a user toggles the filter on their end. In theory, that means higher quality listings with lower total prices should appear higher in results. Chesky said the app will also start providing hosts with new pricing tools like variable pricing and seasonal discounts so hosts can set more competitive rates.
“We started as an affordable alternative to hotels, and affordability is especially important today,” Chesky said. “During this difficult economic time, we need to help our Hosts provide great value to you.”
For years now, Airbnb users have cried foul over less than clear cleaning fees which, in some cases, can cost hundreds of dollars. In June, Nerdwallet analyzed 1,000 Airbnb listings and found the median cleaning fee hovering around $75. More than a third (34%) of the listings analyzed included a cleaning fee worth between 20% and 29% of the listing’s base price while 8% of listings included cleaning fees that came out to more than 40% or more of the original listing’s price. Those fees, especially when tacked on with taxes, can quickly turn a seemingly too good to be true weekend getaway into a financial nightmare.
Chesky and Airbnb acknowledged some of these criticisms back in May 2021 in a blog post called “Fee transparency on Airbnb” where it promised to conduct a “comprehensive review,” of its fees by the end of the year. This week’s changes come nearly one year after that intended date, a delay Chesky blamed on continued feedback and testing of features with hosts and guests, according to an interview with The Wall Street Journal.
Notably, the new total pricing display won’t display by default for most users. When asked about the decision to make the feature opt-in, Chesky told the Journal they had experimented with making the feature on by default but said users were confused when they saw what seemed like more expensive listings in their search results.
“The prices do look more expensive,” Chesky told the Journal. “They don’t know why they’re more expensive and certainly that’s not helpful to business.”
Airbnb did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.