Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky has faced numerous challenges in 2023. From the “Airbnbust” frenzy in March where hosts complained about shrinking profits and a potential rental bubble, to competitor Vrbo beating Airbnb to a loyalty program feature, and the tightening of short-term rental rules in New York City. The increasing strictness of return-to-office policies has also affected Airbnb’s business flexibility. With the release of several site improvements in mid-September, Chesky aimed to address the conflicting demands of guests and hosts, focusing on affordability, customer service, and transparency. However, Chesky acknowledges that these improvements are merely patches on the underlying issues that Airbnb faces.
Chesky admits that Airbnb has not fully nailed the core aspects of its service, citing consistency and reliability as key issues. He compares Airbnb to a house with only four pillars when it actually needs ten, referring to the need for a strong foundation. Chesky highlights the three core pillars of affordability, reliability, and customer support, but acknowledges the challenges of retrofitting such a large company to increase quality.
Chesky emphasizes that lowering prices can be a competitive advantage for hosts, as affordability is an important factor for consumers. He encourages hosts to adjust their margins and provide better deals to attract more bookings. Chesky suggests that dynamic pricing insights can help hosts compare their prices to others in their neighborhood and the hotel market, ensuring competitiveness.
Artificial intelligence (AI) plays a crucial role in Airbnb’s quality control efforts. Chesky explains that AI technology is used to verify listings by matching submitted photos with databases and satellite imaging services. By purging fake listings, Airbnb aims to improve customer service experiences and prevent guests from arriving at non-existent properties. Chesky also mentions using machine learning techniques to identify patterns and prevent house parties in rentals.
Chesky teases upcoming AI developments and a “big update” in November, hinting at efforts to verify listing amenities. Regarding a loyalty program, Chesky believes that building a product that people love should be the focus, with a program potentially adding value to the service rather than just providing points or free stays.
New York City’s strict regulations on short-term rentals have posed significant challenges for Airbnb. Chesky highlights the difficulties the company has faced in the city but notes that New York now represents less than half a percent of Airbnb’s business. He suggests that experiences, rather than homes, could be the future of Airbnb in New York.
In conclusion, Chesky recognizes the need to address fundamental issues within Airbnb’s service and improve its core pillars. He believes that affordability, reliability, and customer support are key to providing an excellent experience for users. Chesky also emphasizes the importance of AI in maintaining quality control and hints at future developments in this area. Despite the challenges in New York City, he remains optimistic about the future of Airbnb.