Airbnb has taken a lot of heat over its hosts’ fees. Renters have protested that they were surprised by fees that, for one thing, weren’t disclosed up front; and, two, that some of the fees hosts charged were flat out ridiculous.
When one Airbnb host posted a $114 cleaning fee, a Twitterstorm blew up to the tune of nearly 200,000 likes and nearly 20,000 plus retweets.
Fortunately, the company heard the clamor of complaints loud and clear and moved to make things better in regard to fee transparency.
Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky now suggests that anguish should be just about gone. At the Skift Global Forum 2023, Chesky was asked if Airbnb cleaning fees can be eliminated. “Essentially, yes,” he said.
Chesky is banking on the company’s success with the “toggle button” that it put at the top of the app’s homepage that reads “Display total before taxes.”
When a consumer/renter takes the time to turn that toggle on, then yes, they’re supposed to see the total price – including fees – and not a basic, initial price that spikes higher the moment you’re ready to press “book.”
Where this whole cleaning fee thing stands now
“It’s the first thing you see. It’s larger type than the search box,” Chesky said, adding that Airbnb is going to continue to press the necessity of that button with all of its hosts.
“As far 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,” Chesky explained.
As an incentive, Airbnb is giving preference to hosts who employ upfront pricing and no cleaning fees, versus those who continue to display a lower rate and, then, surprise guests with a higher amount when they checkout.
So far, the score appears to be this: 260,000 listings that have either lowered or removed cleaning fees since the total price display was initiated. However, that leaves about 2.7 million listings that still have to get in line with Chesky’s wish.
“This upfront pricing model, with ranking the best total nightly [rate], is essentially very close to the perceived elimination of cleaning fees,” Chesky said.
But are the fees really gone?
Skift’s Justin Dawes suggests that what Chesky is really saying, however, is that the plan doesn't actually do away with cleaning fees.
“Instead, it's meant to prevent users from seeing an unexpected price jump just before check-out — arguably the more frustrating issue. Chesky did not say that a price cut is coming — just that the total price will be more transparent,” Dawes said.
Until every single host is on the same page with Chesky, he puts some of the responsibility on the renter to flip the “upfront pricing” toggle.
“When enough American travelers and customers are trained, we would like to just move that to default-on for everyone,” he said. He also defended cleaning fees, reasoning that Airbnb hosts charge cleaning fees because they often outsource the process and that cleaning a unit is the same no matter if a host rents a room for one day, a week, or a month.
“We also want hosts to try to pay their cleaners a fair living wage. And it does cost money to get [cleaners] to come to, say, an Airbnb that is a little bit longer commute,” he said.