So much of travel involves price comparisons, yet trying to compare pricing quickly is rarely as easy as one might hope. Easy is rarely the word, amirite?
In a world of “lowest lead price” gets eyeballs, travelers often have no idea if their well-intentioned comparisons accurately reflect the total price for a stay. For far too long, Airbnb hasn’t even been neutral on this — they’ve only trended worse
Lead in prices were progressively becoming further removed from reality, as new fee features popped up. A “$100 a night” stay would often end up over $200, by the time platform service fees, cleaning fees, and a myriad of others were added, post fact.
Following the airline world, which has gotten better at noting some fares don’t include checked bags, or seat selections from the start, Airbnb is set to tackle fees after a long review of its fee structure, and more so, how they display prices.
Airbnb Tackles Fees
Brian Chesky, Co-founder and CEO of Airbnb, asserted that the cleaning fees were “never intentionally designed,” which is somewhat an abbreviated way of saying that they never assumed hosts would use these fees to totally “game” their listings, earning additional money for rentals.
Unfortunately, many hosts have added outsized cleaning fees, impacting the total price you pay for accommodation, especially for short stays.
Understanding The Culture Of (Travel) Fees
So, the first vital question, is why additional fees are such a ubiquitous component of travel pricing? Across travel, and not specifically Airbnb, fees comes down to two very important concepts:
- Search Engines and Search (Price Ranking) – Getting your listing to rank higher.
- Commissions Paid – Most hotel fees (resort fees) go directly to the hotel property cutting out any commission payments to online travel agencies (OTA’s) or Travel Agents.
Airbnb Cleaning Fees – Very Similar to Hotel Resort Fees
While thankfully, resort fees are not part of the equation for Airbnb, in essence, cleaning fees are the Airbnb equivalent of hotel resort fees. This is especially true when reviewing the price per night for a stay, since you often do not see the fees until check-out or when you’re ready to complete of a reservation.
What an awful surprise!
You can give a slight nod to the fact that at least a “cleaning fee” is for something specific and understandable, like cleaning. In contrast, many hotel resort fees include unnecessary services and are often not wanted by consumers.
Examples include free local phone calls, a notary service, or a daily newspaper. Or, shall we say, these items should really already be included in the (per night) pricing for a hotel stay. I guess it’s better, but still bad?
Fees As a Profit Center
For those that can’t get enough narrative about fees, be sure to check out (paywall) this brilliant Wall Street Journal Article from September 2022, Welcome to Your Airbnb, the Cleaning Fees Are $143 and You’ll Still Have to Wash the Linens.
The short story is that just like hotel resort fees, Airbnb cleaning fees are used as a profit center above and beyond the fee charged. These fees cover the cost of the (cleaning) services and include a (profit center) markup for the host.
It’s definitely not philanthropy for the cleaning industry.
Airbnb Fees: Not A “Tech” Obstacle
Skift recently shared a very interesting article about these fees, pointing out several items that involve the methodology used by Airbnb in defining these fees.
One of the most interesting comments was that “It wouldn’t be an overly difficult technical issue for Airbnb to show the total charges in initial search results.” Ironically, the EU already requires transparency of fees.
This leaves us with a clear understanding that the way that Airbnb fees are displayed in search results has historically been a business decision and not a technical issue. It’s a choice that was allowed to run, perhaps until things went “too” wild.
These fees should legitimately cover costs for cleaning and not be used as a profit center for hosts. If hosts desire higher rates for stays, they should focus on the value proposition of the listing while pricing it accordingly.
Airbnb Says Changes Are On The Way
In the coming weeks and months, Airbnb will test different ways to display prices based on the review that started more than a year ago. Unfortunately, providing tips to hosts and suggesting that cleaning fees not be added or be reasonable has not been enough to discourage above-average cleaning fees.
According to Brian Chesky, the founder and CEO of Airbnb, the platform has been listening to users about their experiences and complaints.
Why that took a year to tell them something we could’ve told them in 5 minutes, is an exercise in corporate bureaucracy.
The new hope is that a combination of added “upfront” transparency on pricing and also a prioritization of listings with lower fees will become commonplace as part of the renting process for Airbnb.
Treating guests as valuable customers begins with the search and pricing experience. Nobody wants to feel “tricked” or “ripped off” after they’ve fallen in love with a place.
It seems that at long last, Airbnb is giving customers what they want, and realizing that encouraging transparency and awarding more transparent hosts can only be positive.
We also know that Digital Nomads love Airbnb, and it is amazing to “hop around” to different properties while avoiding excessive cleaning fees for short stays. Especially since the impact of per-stay fees is more “painful” when only staying at a property for a few days.
One more reason to consider Airbnb, especially when you can “Pay Yourself Back” on Airbnb Until December 31, 2022 using Chase Ultimate Rewards.