Travel

Airbnb announces upgrades during this time of ‘great untethering’

The features are in response to the changing way folks are traveling due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A rental cabin in Jackson, N.H., listed on Airbnb. Airbnb

Airbnb rolled out more than 50 upgrades this week to meet the changing needs of travelers due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The changes include improvements for travelers working remotely and those with disabilities. New upgrades include: Translation Engine, Verified Wifi Speed, I’m (even more) Flexible, Accessibility Review, and AirCover.

Airbnb improved communication on the platform by building a translation engine so hosts and guests in more than 60 countries “can engage with each other seamlessly,” according to Chris Lehane, senior vice president for global policy and communications at Airbnb.

“The technology is much better and the translation is much more accurate,” Lehane said, noting its release coincides with the U.S. relaxing restrictions on international travel this week.

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A travel revolution is taking place, Lehane said, calling it a “great untethering” in which “travel, work, and living are all really beginning to blend together.”

Lehane experienced it himself this year when the Lawrence native now living in California extended his annual two-week summer vacation in Maine.

“I got to spend six weeks there, and I worked four of the six weeks,” Lehane said.

One-third of 7,500 consumers reported they will live somewhere else while working remotely more often than before after the global health crisis, according to an Airbnb survey.

Airbnb’s Wifi search filter has been used 288 million times this year, according to the company. With Verified Wifi Speed, hosts can test their Wifi within the app and post the Wifi strength on their listings page, Lehane said.

“It’s great for the host because it helps them get more business and it’s great for those travelers who, in particular, are looking at how they are going to be working when they travel,” Lehane said.

Travelers with disabilities can now take advantage of Accessibility Review, where Airbnb agents confirm listed features such as step-free guest entrances and wider doorways for visitors in wheelchairs.

AirCover is “top to bottom protection” for hosts, according to the company, and includes $1 million in liability insurance, $1 million in damage protection, income loss protection, pet damage protection, deep cleaning protection, and more. It is free for all hosts.

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The company launched flexible searches in May, which lets guests search for stays within a six month time period and has been used more than 500 million times, according to the company. Now users can search for rentals 12 months in advance.

Airbnb is seeing 50 percent more travel booked for 2022 than the company has seen this time of year in previous years, Lehane said.

“People are making multiple travel plans much farther in advance than they have historically,” he said.

Airbnb also added four new categories of unique stays: ski in/ski out, off the grid, luxe, and off-beat.

“These unique stays have just exploded during the pandemic,” Lehane said. “Because the accommodation itself has become part of the experience that people are looking for.”

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