Opinion piece on Airbnb's response to Covid

“Only time will tell how the industry will assimilate the behavior of Airbnb during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the youngest major OTA at the table, Airbnb has proven it is prepubescent at best.”

She’s incorrect in stating that:

property management software systems (PMSs) do not come with a “buffer” setting

It’s straightforward to do, certainly on our current channel manager which is by no means the most full featured on the market. You simply add a blocked day post checkout and change advance notice to one day. I’ve just done it and tested it. Works fine.

An issue may arise if Airbnb start dicking around and imposing mandatory blocked days, the clowns in their IT dept are most likely to come up with something totally unusable for anyone who uses third party software of any description. Let’s hope it’s a voluntary opt in.


And the cruise and airline industries handled this so much better, of course.


I think Airbnb did a pretty good job with benefits and pay for laid off workers. Many workers don’t get that consideration. They just get their last paycheck and any legally required benefit continuation and it’s over.


I just read the rest of it. This is really a slam piece. I don’t see how the timeline included of Airbnb scrambling to respond to the pandemic is “prepubescent” and “emotional” (!) or very different from other businesses’ experience in this unusual situation. The choice of language is personalized to conflate Chesky with his company as “immature.” I grant the author’s marketing chops, this is a very effective way to undermine a reputation.
Every company that issues credits for prior bookings or gift cards gets to book the revenue; it’s not egregious, it’s accounting! Then the writer flips and says hosts should be able to offer property-specific credits. I guess that’s not egregious. Yep, the cleaning protocol is awkward, but I understand the reasoning – “professionally managed” hotels and corporate housing will get the benefit of the doubt that they conformed to higher level cleaning standards because they appear less “amateur,” when in reality you would have to put body cams on the housekeeping staff to check. The final sentence about risk I agree with, it’s spot on. The author’s background includes web marketing sold to HomeAway, and then large company hospitality marketing. Airbnb competitors, just sayin’.
I can see the point that Airbnb could have started with a crediting/partial refund scheme instead of full refund. (Wouldn’t have helped me with flexible policy.) I did appreciate the ability to cancel on my end without penalty for a few stubborn May reservations that would have been in violation of my U.S. state’s pandemic orders.
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t want Chesky as a beer drinking buddy as I think we have a different value set. But it’s just business, not personal. Airbnb obviously made a calculated decision to keep guest loyalty and count on hosts being replaceable. Whether that was a good business decision will only become apparent in hindsight. If Airbnb goes out of business, we will all have to shift fully to other platforms, which has some time/effort costs, and will be hard on shared space hosts.


While there’s some obvious bias there, some of the information is good.

The “prepubescent” comment it meant to be derogatory, but it agrees with what I’ve been thinking. I really think many of the problems hosts and guests complain about are based on Airbnb’s inexperience. Not because they are doing something that’s never been done before, but because the people making the policies don’t have the experience it takes to make good policies. I’m not referring to only the recent COVID-19 policies, either.

The “timeline” explains a lot of stuff I’ve been reading, particularly about why there are so many guests upset about refunds (or lack thereof). Airbnb changed policies frequently and left guests confused and angry by telling them a specific policy applied to their situation based on the date they cancelled, but the details of that policy were no longer published on the website.

Airbnb’s software has had that setting for a long time (it’s called “preparation time”), so it seems odd that none of the property management software would have it.

AirBnb should continue to exist for “hosts with shared spaces”.
That is where they belong.
Otherwise, they screwed up, and screwed owners royally.
They will make a ton on the bottom line from “breakage” and that is all they cared about.
If they had treated the owners as well as the employees they would not be in the situation they are currently in.
Owners on other sites are reporting blocked days by auto software.
Chesky made very lousy and impulsive business decisions. He is now guilty as charged, and very scared.


Unfortunately, if Airbnb only offered shared spaces, both revenue and growth would be stunted and most of the employees and investors would bail. If that happened, I would expect the company to be sold and then further cheapened by cost-cutting.

I dont see that as unfortunate.
Nothing would make me more pleased.
We are all entitled to our opinions.

That was my point, they do have it. Poor research methinks.


It sure seems like it would be unfortunate for hosts left on the only platform that supports their homeshares, with further reduced customer service as well as other reduced benefits and services. I am not a homeshare host, but I don’t wish that on those hosts.


Thanks for that. Seems like many entire-home hosts can only see from their own situation. I’ve read so many posts since the COVID debacle saying "We should all just switch to VRBO/Homeaway/ BDC ", totally unaware that we can’t list private room home-shares there. It’s almost like they don’t even know or acknowledge that those types of listings exist.
Had there been a good alternative for my home-share listing, I would have diversified a long time ago.

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That’s interesting. I never realized VRBO doesn’t allow you to rent partial space… wonder why they don’t allow it.

I don’t know, but it would be a smart move for them to start a section of their platform for them right now. They’d get tons of home-share hosts signing up.


Maybe they never did because they thought they wanted to stay in their lane. When I think of a home away, it’s an entire home. When I think of a Vacation Rental I don’t think of someone’s guest room. I wish more businesses would stay narrow instead of trying to be everything to everyone. That said, a viable alternative to Airbnb is overdue.

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Yes, there’s a lot of truth in that. When a business has a narrower focus, they can concentrate on doing what they do well, rather than branching out into too many arenas and ending up not being particularly competent at any of them.
That has been a lot of Airbnb’s problem, IMO. Trying to promote everything from a camp site to a private room home-share, to entire house listings, to slick Airbnb Plus and Luxe properties, plus Experiences, all being handled in more or less the same way, has made for a messed up dog’s breakfast of guest expectations, major review issues, confused and incompetent customer service, etc.
Of course, home-share hosts have been wishing for a viable alternative or adjunct to Airbnb for a long time, and many have said it just couldn’t be profitable, but I don’t see any reason why it couldn’t be, as long as whoever started it up and ran it was satisfied with simply earning a decent living for themselves, rather than getting rich.
What I’d like to see is a platform that only listed home-shares, secondary entire-place units on the property where the owner lives, even an entire place where the owner/host lived across the street or next door. In other words, places with real hosts who basically live on-site.

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I agree 100% on what I’d like to see challenging Airbnb. I’d be happy to see them really return to their roots. The recession may force them to do so but they will paste a bunch of happy talk on top of it.

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They want to be “disruptors”. Not a way to build loyalty.

I don’t blame Airbnb. They’ve reacted in the best way possible, to a sudden and extremely difficult, if not disastrous, situation for the entire travel industry. The world has been turned upside down. Let’s compare airbnb’s “lack of strategic thinking” to most politicians, who have generally reacted by thinking “how can I benefit politically from this pandemic?” “How can I increase my power?”. In this regard, we are all downstream from the ever changing dictates of the politicians, who are giving us no definitive guidance about the future, other than be very afraid.