Almost one year ago, our CEO and co-founder, Brian, shared a note outlining significant steps we’d take in designing for trust on our platform. We made commitments to, among other things, introduce a guest guarantee, launch a neighborhood hotline, expand our risk assessment tools and verify the accuracy and quality standards of properties listed on the Airbnb platform.
In our efforts to meet these commitments, and to continue to invest in the safety and security of our community and our platform, our teams focused their efforts in four core areas:
- Supporting our community
- Working with community stakeholders
- Curtailing large gatherings
- Quality standards for verification
I am proud to have joined Airbnb several months ago as head of global operations, where I oversee our global Trust, Community Support, and Payments organizations. Today, I’m sharing an update on our progress in each of these areas.
Supporting Our Community
We committed to rebooking the guest a new listing of equal or greater value, or offering them 100% of their money back, if the listing they checked into did not meet our high quality standards or the host’s listing representations (e.g. cleanliness, amenities, etc.). This policy went live in December 2019 and is captured within our Guest Refund Policy. This has helped give guests peace of mind that if listings are not consistent with the host representations, we’ve got their backs.
COVID-19 Extenuating Circumstances Refunds
When the World Health Organization declared a pandemic, we were faced with a dilemma, Airbnb activated its Extenuating Circumstances policy to provide for refunds for eligible guests. This difficult decision was made in the interest of public health, despite the impact to the livelihood of our host community and the Airbnb business.
We also committed $250M in support funds to help impacted hosts recover and get through these tough times.
We recently introduced Project Lighthouse, a groundbreaking initiative we’re launching in the United States to uncover, measure, and help overcome discrimination when booking or hosting on Airbnb.
Working with Community Stakeholders
Neighborhood Support Hotline
Providing direct access for guests, hosts, and the communities in which we operate is critical to trust on our platform. In December 2019, we launched a neighborhood support hotline in the United States so that neighbors can reach us directly with their concerns. In the time since, the hotline has expanded to Canada and the Netherlands and global rollout will continue into 2021, including support in additional languages. This hotline has proven to be an important tool in our efforts to combat unauthorized gatherings and enforce our ban on parties in accordance with our parties and events policies.
Launch of the Airbnb City Portal
Over the last five years, dating back to the launch of the Airbnb Community Compact, Airbnb has outlined and acted on our commitment to working with governments. From Seattle to Hamburg, and Cape Town to Porto Seguro, and Japan to Vancouver, we have partnered with hundreds of cities, states, provinces and countries worldwide to ensure tourism is benefiting communities directly.
In line with that, just last month we launched Airbnb’s City Portal, an industry-first solution, built exclusively for governments and tourism organizations, that includes compliance tools and locally-specific data for a deeper partnership with Airbnb. City Portal’s technology directly connects the Airbnb platform with governments and tourism organizations.
Stopping Large Gatherings
Party House Ban
In November 2019, Brian took a stand against “party houses” and formally banned them from our platform in accordance with our policies. We went on to expand on that ban with more transparency about the policy, including a ban on “open-invite” parties as well as large gatherings in apartment or condo buildings.
Since then, we have ramped up enforcement on this policy, carrying out penalties for violators in markets like Los Angeles, Florida, Australia and more. Many of these suspensions and removals have stemmed from issues raised to us by neighbors through the Neighborhood Support Line.
And today, we’re announcing our intent to explore solutions with industry peers that will help us address the issue of party houses and nuisance properties across platforms. In the coming days, we’ll be reaching out to our industry peers about this topic.
Global Ban on Parties
To build on our efforts to crack down on “party houses”—and in the context of the ongoing public health crisis—in August 2020, we announced a global ban on all parties and events at Airbnb listings, in accordance with our policies and in the interest of public health, until further notice. This was accompanied by a new occupancy cap of 16 people in a listing. This ban has been well received by our global host community, the majority of whom already prohibited parties in their listings’ House Rules.
We also took measures within our platform to promote responsible behavior such as removing the “event-friendly” search filter and removing any “parties and events allowed” House Rules in listings.
Risk Detection Technology
We have also developed and implemented new technologies in certain markets to help identify suspicious reservations and help stop unauthorized listing activities before they start. For example, we look at the duration of the stay and listing attributes such as the size of the listing, amongst hundreds of other factors. This technology launched in North America in December 2019, and thanks to these systems, we have identified and proactively cancelled nearly 9,000 high-risk reservations in the United States and Canada. We have continued to develop this technology and recently announced its nationwide expansion to Australia following a pilot in Melbourne.
Redirecting Certain Local Reservations
To complement this risk detection system, earlier this year we shared out additional safety defenses aimed at protecting our hosts, including an initiative that restricts certain bookings in the US and Canada for guests under the age of 25 of entire home listings in their local area. This technology has blocked over 770,000 distinct reservation attempts in the US and Canada. This restriction does not block guests from booking private room listings and hotel rooms through Airbnb. This technology has also been expanded to the UK, France and Spain.
We also shared out an additional technology which prevents certain last minute bookings of entire home listings on extremely short notice, based on data showing that certain last-minute reservations have historically resulted in a disproportionate number of unauthorized parties. This protection has blocked over 170,000 distinct reservation attempts in the United States and Canada.
Last year, there were more than 14,000 accepted one-night, entire-home reservations that took place in the US and Canada on October 31, 2019 and November 1, 2019 combined. This year, there will be no single night, entire-home reservations in the US or Canada over Halloween weekend (Friday and Saturday). That’s because we’re prohibiting one-night reservations over the Halloween weekend in entire home listings in the United States or Canada. Additionally, guests with reservations of two nights or more over the weekend will be required to attest that they understand that they may be subject to removal from Airbnb or legal action if they violate Airbnb’s rules on parties.
This was done to strengthen our hosts’ protection against parties amid concerns about a second wave of the pandemic.
To deter unacceptable behavior, we’ve begun taking legal action against booking guests and party promoters in certain cases involving unauthorized parties. We’ve taken this action so far in Sacramento, Cincinnati and Glendora, CA, and we won’t hesitate to take future legal action if necessary.
Quality and Standards
Starting in Q4 of 2019, Airbnb’s host quality team began developing a protocol to verify listings around the globe, which began rolling out on February 26, 2020, just three weeks before the WHO declared a COVID-19 a global pandemic. When travel largely stopped because of the pandemic we had to slow the work but concurrent with travel on Airbnb recovering, we ramped the verification program. Despite the challenges presented by the global health pandemic, over 40% of active Airbnb listings have begun the verification process to date and we continue to make progress towards our goal. In order to help protect the health and safety of our community, we have also invested in new mandatory cleaning standards and a range of other healthy, safety and quality tools.
Cleanliness & Covid Safety
The impact of the pandemic on our community, our company and global travel led us to make some adjustments and improvements. For example, we have launched our Enhanced Clean program, as we know in this current environment that cleanliness is critical. This program includes five important steps: prepare, clean, sanitize, check, and reset.
We have also announced that hosts and guests must agree to follow Airbnb’s COVID-19 Safety Practices, which include wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and, for hosts and their teams, abiding by that five-step enhanced cleaning process. This commitment will help provide extra assurances to try and safeguard all our stakeholders—hosts, guests, their communities and governments.
We have made strides in our identity verification program, which is critical to building trust within our community. Currently 75% of our bookings globally are between a host and guest who have each completed an identity verification process. In the United States, 97.9% of bookings are made between a host and guest who have each completed an identity verification process. And in the following countries, the number is 90% or above: Australia, Canada, France, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Our team is working to elevate that rate globally over the next year.
In light of the need to prioritize public health during a global pandemic, we have sought to be a leader in establishing new health and safety measures and holding people accountable when it comes to these rules. We have worked to identify new measures to prioritize public health and safety—and we will continue to do so.
And we believe our efforts are working. Between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020, only .086% of trips included a safety issue reported by a host or guest.
Last year, Brian said, “The world moves at the speed of trust, and the more trust that exists, the more access we can all have. Airbnb is founded on trust, and our vision depends on us continuing to increase this in our community.” I can’t agree more with this statement, and that commitment to trust and safety—on the foundation of our Host Guarantee, double-blind review system, two-factor authentication, and more—is one of the reasons I felt compelled to join Airbnb and lead this work. I look forward to continuing our work with hosts, guests, the communities in which we operate, and our own employees to reinforce the trust platform that we have built.