Airbnb is attempting to put the kibosh on disruptive post-vaccine summer parties by launching its “Summer of Responsible Travel” plan, focused on offering more support to hosts and their neighbors, and adjusting its policies to prevent Airbnbs from being used for things other than calm, socially distanced stays.
Airbnb’s most noticeable change is a ban on one-night or last-minute stays on the Fourth of July, at least for those guests who don’t have a history of receiving positive reviews from Airbnb hosts. The company is targeting the Fourth because it says the holiday is viewed as a “reopening date” for the US and potentially an occasion for large gatherings that could spread COVID-19.
As the policy stands now, there are still some loopholes that might allow big Fourth of July celebrations to happen. If you’ve already booked before today, those reservations will be honored; the same is true if you have several positive reviews but just now decided to have a blowout gathering. But if you’re new to the platform and don’t have a review history, you might have a harder time booking a one-night stay. The policy is similar to what Airbnb tried on Halloween. On that holiday, it canceled already-booked one-night reservations and refunded hosts, but it doesn’t seem to be taking the same tack with the Fourth of July.
Airbnb previously announced a global ban on house parties in 2020 and currently caps gatherings at 16 people. It’s not clear how often those policies are enforced or if more people show up to an event that only had 16 people invited to it. The last time Airbnb blocked and canceled reservations for an event was during President Biden’s inauguration week, but its Fourth of July policy is more lenient. Even still, Airbnb is potentially impacting people who planned to book a spot and cutting itself out of reservation money in the process.
Airbnb will also begin to offer discounts on noise detection devices through a company called Minut. Airbnb doesn’t specify the discount amount, but sensors cost $129 and monthly subscriptions can cost as much as $14.99 per month. Minut’s sensors don’t record anything, but they do track motion and loudness and automatically send notifications to guests when they pass certain decibel levels. It’s not as creepy as it could be, but it still might make guests uncomfortable. Airbnb says hosts will be required to mention if they use Minut’s devices on their listing pages.
Airbnb is also expanding its Neighborhood Support Line to cover Spanish-language calls. Neighborhood Support is a 24/7 service neighbors can use to complain about Airbnbs, sort of a first layer of protection to keep hosts and guests from necessarily having to deal with local authorities over something like a noise complaint — assuming an annoyed neighbor knows to call the hotline number (855-635-7754) to begin with.
Airbnb filed to go public during the pandemic, and in the process, it revealed an almost $700 million loss in revenue during 2020. Everything Airbnb has done since has happened in the shadow of whether it can bounce back after a hard year. Airbnb is in a tricky situation; it wants to encourage travel, but it also has to keep guests safe without completely preventing them from using its service. It seems like the “Summer of Responsible Travel” is as much about encouraging guests to stay responsible as it is about actually laying down the law.