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Airbnb’s VP of Experiences, Joe ‘Joebot’ Zadeh, has taken over 100 experiences to help better understand hosts and become an ‘expert’ guest. Earlier this summer he met with team members, press, and over 40 hosts on the ground in 6 European cities. Read on for more insights from Joebot’s trip and answers to the most common questions he heard on his journey.

On this spring trip to Europe, I looked to meet with as many teams and hosts as I could, all while booking experiences along the way. My primary goal was to gain a deeper understanding of what is happening in these markets and spot shared questions, concerns, and feedback from hosts.

Here are my thoughts on the top questions I heard from hosts I’ve met. To keep things interesting, I’ll also share a few snapshots from my trip along the way.

1. Can experience hosts have more control over their photos?

I repeatedly heard that the process for submitting new photos was cumbersome. Hosts wanted more control over their experience pages—and specifically wanted to be able to update their photo and video content. We heard you and accelerated the recent launch of a new photo management tool. Learn how you can now add, edit, or remove your experience photos. This is the first in a series of improvements to help make managing your experience page easier.

truffle hunting on airbnb

Here I am hunting for truffles in the countryside with Giulio. This experience made me rethink my life after Airbnb. Perhaps I’ll add a new member to my family, a truffle-sniffing dog, and become a truffle hunter?

2. How can hosts get more bookings?

Similar to anyone with a creative venture, many hosts are looking for more guests to take their experiences. While it’s true that Experiences are booming (we’ve seen over 21 times the number of guests on Experiences as we did guests in Homes at the same stage), one major focus for us right now is consistently driving more guests to experiences. I’m happy to share more on what we’re doing to increase bookings.

○   A balanced marketplace of hosts and guests. A healthy Experiences marketplace balances the number of experiences offered with the number of potential guests in a strategic way. We aim for guests to have a good selection of experiences to choose from, while also driving enough guests to individual experiences consistently. We’ve recently made changes that support more balanced markets. When letting new experiences onto the platform, while all experiences will be considered, we now prioritize the cities that have more guests interested in booking to help meet the demand.  

○   Driving more guests to the right experiences. We’re always working on new experiments and initiatives to help drive more bookings. For example, our team is working hard to update experience search algorithms to support our hosts and show the most relevant experiences to guests. A recent search update significantly increased bookings by introducing new signals that surface high-quality experiences, and decreased the importance of price and other less relevant cues. Want to hear more? Here’s a new article that explains experience search ranking.

○   Increasing website performance and bookings. In addition to driving more traffic to Experiences, we’re also working on updates to our overall website and to your Experience pages that encourage more guests to book. These updates will help guests better understand what experiences are, what to expect, and entice them to book.

In a test run with potential guests, we found that showing more photos and videos leads to guests being 18% more likely to book. Since we already collect nearly 3k photos from your guests weekly, our team is now rolling out a new guest photo gallery to your experience pages. Read more about this update here.

While we launch these immediate updates, we also have our research and data teams that are working to better understand how potential guests browse and book experiences. These lessons will inform future updates that help us convert more potential guests into bookings. Expect a lot more from us on this topic in the coming months.

During my stay in London, I had the pleasure to take Suzanne’s Wheelchair Tennis Experience. Suzanne is also a competitive and nationally-ranked wheelchair tennis player and offers the experience in London. She’s also an Airbnb team member and is currently helping the Experiences team grow the number of accessible experiences on our platform.

3. Why are there more, and sometimes similar, experiences in the same market?

Some hosts I met with noticed more experiences continually launching in their markets. They also shared concerns on similar, or ‘copycat,’ experiences showing up in search results. This is a new challenge, and we’ve put together a team to come up with solutions to provide guests with a diverse range of high-quality and unique experiences. While competition is a natural part of any marketplace, we are working on a few initiatives to help here.

First, we’ve raised the quality bar required for new experiences, and there is work being done to review active experiences to ensure there is consistency in our marketplace. I’m dedicated to supporting experiences that meet our 3 pillars of quality: unique access, expertise, and hospitality.

If you’re a host that is interested in giving the team feedback on this topic, we’ll interview hosts in the upcoming weeks, and we want to hear from you.

Ride Medieval Landscapes Experience

Many of the experiences I went on were nothing short of life-changing. We ventured outside of Barcelona to take the Riding Medieval Landscapes experience. I was very nervous about horseback riding and lost confidence after a bad experience I had many years ago. David was clearly an expert and gave us insights into his more than 20 years training and breeding horses. He made us feel safe by giving us proper gear and teaching important techniques. With his guidance, I not only became very comfortable; I became best friends with my horse, Mel. I was very sad to leave her. This experience gave me confidence in riding again, something I never thought I would feel.

4. Why can’t we set a minimum number of guests?

I’ve heard many hosts ask for the ability to set a minimum number of guests required to run an experience. The hosts I met with were mostly concerned with group dynamics, as some experiences aren’t built for one or two guests. These hosts also understood that canceling on guests due to a required minimum could be very disappointing to a traveler—perhaps even turning them away from future experiences.

This is a challenging problem to solve, but I understand why hosts are asking for a solution. While we don’t currently plan to allows hosts to set a minimum number of guests, we are focused on testing creative solutions to maximize the seats booked on an occurrence with one or two bookings. Have an idea on how we might solve this problem without negatively impacting your guests’ trust and confidence in booking experiences? Let us know your thoughts.

Luca and Lorenzo, hosts of Cooking class in the Chianti Hills, have me rethinking hospitality. Sure, they were extra attentive hosts, picking us up at the train station, sharing stories and personalized aprons with each of us, but there was something more. I realized that special something that made them excellent hosts was how much they made me feel like a friend. This didn’t feel like a tour or activity, but I felt like part of a tribe. I might forget the cooking techniques I learned with them, but I will always remember the way I felt during this experience.

5. When and how can I expect support from the Airbnb team?

Experiences have grown quickly, and as a result, the demand for help from our customer experience team has accelerated. I understand how upsetting it can feel when you can’t get in touch with us promptly. We know you trust us to support you and your guests in a timely manner.

In response to these concerns, we’ve recently doubled the size of our customer experience team. New team members have allowed us to also increase our availability by 50%. We’re continuing to scale this support team as Experiences grows.

We’re also working on updates that help hosts and guests resolve common issues quickly. For example, we’ve made it easier for guests to reschedule their reservations by doing this directly through the Airbnb app. They no longer have to contact you or our customer experience team.

We have also optimized how we receive and sort your requests. If you need to reach us, head to the Help Center for help, or to give feedback or contact the team.

I had a chat with Daniela, host of Master the Art of Tiramisu & Gelato in Rome, at a host meetup. I loved hearing about how she’s connected with other local hosts. “Making friends with your guests is great, but they leave and don’t come back. The other hosts are always here,” – Daniela

6. What goes on behind the scenes at Airbnb?

Many hosts asked to hear from the Airbnb team more often and want to better understand our vision for the future. They also requested insights into how things like search rankings work and had great feedback to share. We’re excited to be more transparent, reveal more inner workings, and give experience hosts more opportunities for sharing feedback.

Here are some of the new initiatives happening to help keep you in the loop:

Connect with the Airbnb community and the Airbnb team by attending one of 55 meetups happening around the world. Check out this schedule of upcoming events.

○   Our first episode of ‘Let’s Talk Experiences’ features a few members of the Airbnb community, product, and data teams. This episode explains how search works and gives updates on the new photo management tool. I’ll join in on the next episode, rolling out in September.

○   We launched Experience Community Groups in over 30 cities and will roll out more by the end of the year. Connect with other hosts in person and online.

○   In addition to meeting with hosts in person, we have a new powerful feedback tool that allows us to collect and sort all incoming Experience host and guest suggestions. Our team may not reply to each email, but we read every piece of feedback and review your top concerns regularly. Submit your feedback here; we are listening.

Our Resource Center and Experience newsletter will share more insights into search algorithms, what we’re doing to drive more guests your way, and notes from leadership, like this one, that respond to your top questions. Keep checking your inbox and our Experience Resource Center for the latest.

These transformative moments along with the honest feedback I heard from hosts reinforced my focus on the biggest differentiator of Airbnb Experiences: high-quality experiences that encourage human connection and foster a sense of belonging.

In the coming months, I’ll continue to share more about what we’re learning, planning, and optimizing for hosts working hard to provide quality experiences that make our guests feel like they belong. If there’s feedback you want me to hear, I want to hear it. Please send your thoughts our way.