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Earlier this week, Head of Experiences Catherine Powell hosted a fireside chat with all hosts. She discussed the latest updates related to Airbnb Experiences and COVID-19, plus answered many host questions. 

Listening sessions

Airbnb Experiences hosted over 50 listening sessions in the last 2 weeks to learn about your challenges as hosts and to work together to come up with solutions. Over 1,200 hosts attended to share their ideas. The following plans are a direct result of your input—thank you for staying so engaged.  

Financial support

Superhost Relief Fund

This is a new fund started by Airbnb employees, founders, and investors who donated $15 million to support hosts. This fund gives eligible hosts grants up to $5,000. 

Who’s eligible?

  • Hosts who hosted their experience on Airbnb for at least one year before we paused (March 16)
  • You’ll need to verify your identity and demonstrate a reliance on Airbnb as a vital source of your income

How do you apply?

  • There will be an application process that starts before the end of the month
  • We’ll invite hosts to apply on a weekly basis, prioritizing hosts based on the number of instances for their experience throughout the past year as well as the gap in earnings in Q1 of this year compared to Q1 of last year

For the most up to date information, visit airbnb.com/superhostrelief.

Fee waivers

When we reopen in your region, we will waive fees for 2 months for all hosts who were active prior to the pause, up to $1000 per host. The waiver goes into effect the day the region reopens and includes bookings scheduled past the two-month window.. For example, if your market reopens in May and you get a booking in May for an instance in September, the fee for that booking will be waived. 

Cancellations

We are sending guests who had their bookings cancelled a $25 coupon this week to encourage them to book an experience in the future. 

In addition, you can directly message guests who were automatically cancelled. The host cancellation email you received had a link to message the guest.

Online experiences

We’re launching online experiences in the near future. Right now we’re testing with a handful of hosts. It’s important to us to test out the technology so hosts can retain the magic of their real life experience. There is a lot of digital content out there today, so we also want to make sure our experiences are distinctly Airbnb and stand out in the marketplace.

All hosts will get free access to Zoom as well as best practices for online experiences to make sure the interaction is great between you and your guests. 

You’ll be able to get started on creating your own online experience soon. Stay tuned for more details. 

Reaching locals

International travel after COVID-19 will be slow to return, so your first guests will likely be locals looking to return to normalcy and try new activities in their hometown. The team was planning to market to local audiences even before this pause, and we still plan to create local-first campaigns. We plan to work with you on how to tailor your experiences to locals when we’re ready to repen. 

Product requests

We heard a lot of product suggestions, including gifting and host-created coupons. Both ideas are complicated to build, but the team is committed to exploring them and hope to have more to announce soon. 

More communication

We want to stay in close touch with our hosts during this time, so we’re committing to:

  • A weekly newsletter 
  • More videos and live Q&As from Catherine
  • In addition to the local Facebook groups, we’re also working on a global platform for all hosts to connect

We’d love more feedback on what is and isn’t resonating with you. 

Educational programming

A lot of hosts mentioned wanting to improve their skills during this time. We’re kicking off a series of online educational events for you, including weekly host panels and experience page feedback sessions. Here’s a full schedule that we’re updating daily.

Host Q&A

We received hundreds of questions around the world. Catherine answered a few of the most common topics. 

  • “Beyond supporting hosts, how is Airbnb getting ready to get to the otherside of this unprecedented crisis?” — Luiz in Rio
    “And relatedly:  Does Airbnb have a long term recovery strategy?” — Missaoui in Marrakesh

It is a global crisis, especially for anyone in the global tourism industry and Airbnb is no exception. For us in Experiences, we are particularly well-positioned to bounce back because as people leave their isolation, they will be craving human connection—and that’s what we provide.

In the meantime, online experiences represent a fantastic opportunity in this moment. And as we come out of this period, we will be focusing on locals as a guest audience until international travel can fully rebound.

The team is also working on many exciting ideas for the future, which we will be sharing with you once the markets re-open and we can focus on those new opportunities. Rest assured, we will be ready to rebound and take all of you with us as we do.

  1. There were MANY questions about this, including from Beccy in Scotland and Sam in Dallas: “They heard that Airbnb Homes hosts are eligible for a 25% reimbursement of cancellation fees, and are wondering if that can apply to Experiences hosts as well?”

Some Airbnb accommodation hosts are getting some money back from guest cancellations made under our extenuating circumstances policy. That’s because their cancellation policies differ from ours. If you were a home host with a strict cancellation policy and a guest cancelled, then normally the guest would’ve received 50% of their payment and the host would’ve kept 50% of their payment. With the recent announcement, home hosts who had strict cancellation policies get 25% of what they were due from the cancellation.

Our cancellation policy works differently. One way we’ve addressed support for you is through waiving our service fee once your region reopens.

  1. I want to know when you will start to control new experiences that are coming online? Do you plan to open this to everyone or you will keep your Airbnb quality?” — Duje in Split, Croatia

We’re so excited about how much interest we’ve received about online experiences. We’re still testing, trying to scale our technology and maintain our high quality standards. We still plan to vet and review every experience for quality before it goes live.

  1. My experience is not transferable online. Can I start a new one for online? — Aina in Cambridge, UK and also Martina in Italy

Yes, we are working on ways for you to create new online experiences, not just transfer existing ones. There will also be some webinars to help you create your first online experience, so stay tuned.

  1. “What criteria will you use to determine when it will be safe to restart bookings?”– Kim in Utah 

“Will restrictions on outdoor experiences, where social distancing is possible, be lifted sooner than indoor experiences?” — Hailey in Canada

We’re eager to reopen but we want to maintain a safe community for everyone. We’re following guidance from government officials and health experts and plan to take a market and region-based approach to reopening. 

We may also decide certain categories of experiences are safer to restart than others, and we may also recommend adjustments to others to better meet the needs and interests of local audiences. 

  1. “Any advice or suggestions on what experience hosts can be doing now to prepare?” — Luiz in Rio and Guillermo in Bolivia

First of all, stay safe and healthy. That’s the most important thing. 

Many of you shared ideas during the listening sessions for what hosts can do during this time individually and as a community. For example, taking classes to uplevel your skills, or work on a long-term business strategy for their experience. Or spending more time on improving the writing and photography on your experience pages. 

There were also many of you who wanted to connect with each other to offer skillshares and provide feedback. 

Another idea is to think about ways to tweak your experience to make it more appealing to local and domestic guests, rather than just international travelers. 

  1. “I have a booking for a couple still held confirmed in May, will it be likely cancelled?” — Ngurah in Bali

It’s impossible to predict right now the exact timing and direction that things may take. Above all else, we need to ensure the safety of our hosts and guests. With that said, for those of you with confirmed bookings approaching, it may be best to get in touch with those guests directly to check-in with them about the status of their plans. We can be optimistic that things will return to normal soon, but also must be prudent in planning for all possibilities. 

  1. “Have you considered the possibility of extending the period in which Airbnb will not collect your commission? … 2 months seems too little for tourism to resume after the quarantine.” — Valentina in Argentina and Goksel in Poland

We recognize international travel will not bounce back immediately once markets re-open, however, we do anticipate people will begin making travel plans even if they are not able to immediately go. Please note the fee waiver applies to bookings that happen in those first 2 months, not when the experience actually takes place. So if your region opens in May, and you receive a booking in May for October – that booking would still be without the fee. 

  1. “What’s your vision for the worldwide future of experiences, was that vision important when you took the decision to join Airbnb?” — Ricardo in Mexico City

I joined Aribnb because the brand is so strong —it’s so value and mission-driven. Experiences are an incredible product, built on a platform of human connection, which will be stronger coming out of this than ever before.

Coming from Disney, there’s so much emphasis placed on the characters and their stories. And I feel like here in Airbnb Experiences, you all as hosts are the “characters” and it’s your passions, your stories, your expertise and there’s so much opportunity there. I’m privileged to have this role, to work at Airbnb, and to work with all of you. You all are our best ambassadors. I’ve been so touched by your resilience.

I hope this session has shown you that we’re here for you as your partners. And I look forward to meeting many of you, hopefully soon, in your home markets once we can do so again.