My experience with the inability to see guest's photo before reservation

If it wasn’t for this forum I wouldn’t have known that guests’ profile photos now aren’t shown until after you accept the reservation. I find it astonishing that Airbnb hasn’t informed us of this new aspect. I have told them that they should have let us know. They expect that we provide 5* communication but their’s is seriously lacking.

In the past if a guest didn’t have an appropriate photo I would ask them to upload one before I accepted their booking. I only have two reasons for this (as I don’t care how anyone looks). 1. Are you willing to humour me on this so I know you are taking this reservation seriously. 2. If you are holding a beer in each hand and there are two girls with their hands over your crotch (yes, I had that profile pic from a newbie prospective guest last week), we are probably not a good fit.

I phoned Airbnb and asked why I couldn’t see a prospective guest’s photo. I knew the answer, but was interested in what they would say. The CS rep said she could see it and couldn’t understand why I couldn’t. She then told me that I needed to tick the new profile pic button. Once again their lack of communication meant that I didn’t know about this new option.

She then phoned back and said that photos were now blocked before booking as some hosts were prejudiced against certain races.

I told her that if I wanted to racially profile guests I could do this by their name, a photo is irrelevant. I asked where that left me when a large percentage of guests used pics of their pets etc.

Interestingly, she said that this was a trial only and she understood my safety concerns and that they were very interested in host’s feedback and would pass my concerns on. She also suggested I expressed my concern via their website.


I am sure you would have known @Poppy, if you read the information they sent you - it was in one of the regular updates/newsletters they email to hosts. It was in one I think in the autumn.

On this occasion this one is down to you, I’m afraid.

And you certainly can’t always racially profile guests by their name. I don’t have an ‘ethnic’ sounding first or surname.

The reality is that certain hosts do discriminate you only have to read some of the racist bile that appears on various host forums to know that. You have hosts who won’t accept Chinese and Koreans, hosts who won’t accept Muslims, hosts who won’t accept lesbian and gay couples, hosts who won’t accept Arabs or African Americans. The list is endless.

Personally the change doesn’t bother me. I have it in my IB rules that I only accept guests who upload a clear profile photo of themselves. If that isn’t what is provided as in your case I can just ask Airbnb to cancel.


Yes, it’s a trial. And I can see why they don’t tell hosts if they are doing a test because they don’t want to affect the outcome of the experiment. I looked on my settings and I don’t have the profile pic box as an option.

As for their solicitation of host feedback, I’m skeptical. I’m all for speaking up, protesting, tweeting, anything we can do to protect ourselves from capricious Airbnb policies. However, I’m not optimistic. I do believe they are headed straight towards the hotel model and Airbnb hosts will adapt or leave. And we’d like to think that Airbnb can’t survive without us but I feel certain that they have sufficient hosts who don’t care about pictures or vetting guests to continue.


It’s interesting how varied the info we’ll get from CS reps is. I’m also one of those hosts who didn’t know about this emerging policy (and I even sifted through Airbnb email notices after this policy hit my account and still didn’t see it.)

It took the first CS rep I talked to about it to alert me to the notice they posted on the website (on October 22). More significantly the reps I spoke to said that this policy was going to be implemented to all hosts from January 10th (or some time early in January)

Now it sounds and looks like it IS a trial, from what y’all are sharing here.

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This has been discussed on this platform for at least two years.


i think there is two issues here

  1. whether or not guests are required to have a photo, just as hosts don’t - they don’t, and have always been able to upload a range of bizarre graphics or icons not just themselves

  2. the new policy AIrbnb brought in to help counteract discrimination following its report which found it rife amongst hosts which said guest photos will only be available post booking . I mentioned @Poppy I thought it was the autumn but it was actually 1st November


thank you for this heads up, and providing more context.
may not be a newbie per se (joined this forum last year), however i’m still an infrequent participant. this thread is helpful in charting the evolution of this policy.

it’s landing with me that it’s generally been that even though it was ‘required’ to have photos in the past, it wasn’t (consistently) enforced by the platform. some hosts included the stipulation of clear profile photos in their rules, others didn’t, and there is a spectrum of opinions on the relevance of profile photos.

some questions still bubbling

  1. [for those hosts who select the option of profile photos as a guest requirement] have they adjusted their algorithm in confirming guest photos are actually clear profile photos
    (or will i accept a booking and still sometimes find a picture of candles, superman or their pet?)

  2. is it still allowed to include the stipulation of clear profile photos in house rules?
    this is one of those issues that i’ve had contradictory feedback on from CS reps I talked to.
    one rep i talked to suggested i could put it in my rules, and another rep i talked to told me unequivocally that this would be going against their updated policy

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snap! hadn’t seen your response yet when i posted this.
(was multitasking and left this window for a phone call)
i’m still unpacking both of these issues listed and their implications for future bookings


@alixee another thing to consider is that they always have the power to disappear your listing or drop it down in the search ranks for any host who doesn’t conform to their wishes. So if you cancel bookings, demand photos, vet guests in advance, make frequent claims on their host guarantee, have a strict cancellation policy, deny refunds, turn off instant booking, refuse to use price tips and smart pricing, etc they may respond by making it difficult for you to get bookings. And when you call to ask why they give you the run around, lie, claim there is a glitch they are working on and so on.

How many people have posted here that bookings have dropped and in desperation they are turning on instant book or dropping their prices?


I must have struck lucky then, I have it as part of my IB requirement that I only accept guests with a clear profile photo, I vet guests in advance, have a strict policy, don’t use price tips or smart pricing and didn’t have IB for the first 18 months, but I remain on the first page in a city with thousands of listings.

I never drop my prices because I am fortunately not reliant on the income.

I am not saying that Airbnb doesn’t factor some/all these issues into account just that to date it doesn’t seem to have impacted on me.

As an experiment i changed to a moderate cancellation policy for a month and it made no difference to where I was in the rankings.


I did not make the post to receive a lecture, I made it to share my experience.

I read everything Airbnb sends me and I did not receive this notification. The CS rep did not know anything about it, (I did), which is why she had to phone me back with an answer.

I also have it written in my house rules but would prefer that I didn’t have to contact Airbnb to ask them to cancel.

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I agree so many of the reps tell you different things, I also didn’t believe what she was telling me. She sounded, younger, fresher and very, very pleasant and helpful - maybe it was her first day on the job.

One of my listings is brand new and when I started it at the beginning of December the option to choose a profile picture from guests wasn’t available. We haven’t been told when this became an option.

I have also found that under the box to check whether children are permitted there is now a section where you can write why the listing isn’t suitable for children.

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I wasn’t giving you a lecture.

You stated that Airbnb hadn’t told us they were introducing a new feature to block guest photos until they booked.

I pointed out that in fact they had in their newsletter to hosts. (as well as on their website and in the media).

You also stated that if you wanted to racially profile guests you could do so by their name and photos were irrelevant.

I pointed out in my case (as well as many others) you wouldn’t be able to do so.

If you post on a forum, you can expect people to respond. Just because you don’t like the response doesn’t make it a lecture.

I agree that Airbnb are not always consistent at providing information through their customer services reps, or clear about changes to their policies. But on this occasion they were.


This message sounds like a lecture to me…sigh.

Do you really think that I am so stupid and poorly travelled that I don’t know?

if you wanted to racially profile guests you could do so by their name and photos were irrelevant.

I pointed out in my case (as well as many others) you wouldn’t be able to do so.

It’s called generalisation…sigh.

Then it is not worth making…sigh.

I will leave you to your generalisations :slight_smile:

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Like @Poppy I am in Australia and I don’t receive a regular update/newsletter via email. I don’t know if she does. I don’t recall ever seeing one and I’ve gone back through 6 months of recent emails in my AirBnB folder where I automatically send anything they send me and there is nothing of that sort there. I also did a search on 4 years of emails on “news” and “newsletter” and “update” and nothing relevant came up. I am not surprised, maybe as each update affects different countries slightly differently or the timing is different they don’t bother with a small market like Australia. Pretty much all my “updates” about changes I get from reading this forum.

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Thank you, I read everything I get sent so I also know I didn’t “miss it”. The only news emails I get are in relation to the Superhost program. I also learn about new updates here or when I travel as a guest and see new things from the guest’s perspective.

I get website messages about the SuperHost program but nothing else. I was also referring to actual emails sent to my email address and not messages on the website. I get a lot of those, about bookings, enquiries, payments, guests reviews etc but nothing like a newsletter.

Maybe someone who receives these can post a recent copy somehow. Maybe you need to sign up for it but I’ve never been asked as far as I recall.

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@JamJerrupSunset Yes if you want to receive newsletters with updates about changes to the way they are operating you need to go into your settings and sign up for them.

You would have got asked if you wanted to do this when you set up your profile.

I can’t imagine why they would make these newsletters available to hosts in Europe, the US and other places but not to hosts in Australia.

Sorry I have probably thousands of emails from Airbnb so don’t have time to go through them to find the relevant newsletter.

I would recommend any host or airbnb management company signs up as they are such as useful resource.

Yep, that’s most likely because you didn’t sign up for it :slight_smile: