Airbnb just dropped its ‘biggest change’ in a decade

May 11, 2022

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You probably already know that there are thousands and thousands of incredible homes to rent on Airbnb, including out-of-this-world properties like castles, igloos and treehouses. The tricky part of Airbnb is finding them — and then it’s even harder to narrow down dates you can actually stay there.

However, with Airbnb’s summer 2022 release — “the biggest change to Airbnb in decades,” according to Airbnb CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky — finding a special place to stay is easier than ever. In fact, the update might just help you find a dream stay in a locale you’ve never even heard of.

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The summer update includes a handful of new features that not only group specific properties into category types (like castles, for example), but also allow users to find and book multiple places to stay over the course of a single trip, plus new protections to ensure a positive experience.

Last year, Airbnb launched 150 upgrades to the platform. Many upgrades were specifically designed to help people be more flexible when looking for a place to stay, like the “I’m (even more) Flexible” tool, which opened flexible booking options up to a 12-month window, a helpful tool for people who aren’t sure when they want to go or who have the freedom to go whenever.

Now, as travel demand is skyrocketing and we’re on the verge of a “sold-out summer” when everything is already sold out or so expensive it might as well be, flexibility is even more important. These new updates, detailed below, might just be the key to locking in an incredible vacation.

iPhone displaying Airbnb listings side by side
(Image courtesy of Airbnb)

Airbnb Categories

The first major change to Airbnb is the introduction of Airbnb Categories: “A new way to search that makes it easy to discover millions of homes you never knew existed.”

With this feature, Airbnb drops the notion that you need to know exactly where you want to go and specific dates to travel. Instead, it lets the vast number of rentals on the platform guide you. Now, when you visit Airbnb on the app or on the website, homes are organized into 56 different categories across a spectrum of home types, locations and activities to explore.

These categories include home types like castles, A-frame homes, barns, windmills and even farms or containers. Want to book a house with a grand piano? That’s a category. Looking for a culinary getaway with a chef’s kitchen? That’s a category, too. With the design category, you can search through homes featured in glossy magazines or designed by celebrated architects like Frank Lloyd Wright.

If you’re wanting a specific location type but aren’t sure where to go, just toggle over to “beachfront” to see what’s available near or far, maybe in a charming beach town you’ve never heard of. Other location categories include: “Arctic,” for destinations like Norway, Finland and Iceland; riads in Morocco; ryokans in Japan; and more broad terms like “vineyards,” “countryside” and “lakes.” For fans of national parks, let that category guide you to a park you’ve never experienced.

Or, if you don’t know where to go, but are looking for a certain activity – say golfing, skiing, surfing or camping – Airbnb now groups those together for inspiration.

With this feature, you can make a broad search across all available properties in that category or you can still set a specific destination and search for homes across different categories. For example, you can search castles across all of Europe or zoom in and find ones specifically in France.

To take it one step further, you can now search for castles in France for a one-week trip across entire months, like June and July for example, to see what’s available to book without being locked into specific dates.

two iPhones displaying Airbnbl istings
(Image courtesy of Airbnb)

Split Stays

With the new Split Stays feature, Airbnb will automatically show you booking options that split trips that are a week or longer into two different homes. This feature gives travelers the opportunity to potentially experience two different destinations or homes without piecing it together themselves, and the chance to see around 40% more listings, according to Airbnb.

Split Stays automatically show up grouped together with individual homes when searching for a specific destination. So if you’re scrolling for a weeklong trip to France, you might see two similar homes in different destinations paired together as a booking option mixed in with the rest.

It also works across 14 different categories, including camping, national parks, skiing and surfing. If you’re looking for a weeklong surf trip in California, you might be suggested two totally different coastal areas to split your vacation between.

Better yet, when looking at Split Stays on the map, an animated line appears to show you the distance between the two. If you decide they’re right for you, a quick-and-easy interface helps you book both in a seamless process, one home at a time.

iPhones with Airbnb messaging displayed
(Image courtesy of Airbnb)

AirCover for Guests

The last major change is the introduction of AirCover for Guests, a comprehensive travel protection program that will now be included free with every booking. “It represents the biggest upgrade to Airbnb customer service in a decade,” the company said.

With AirCover, guests are protected in four different ways:

  • Booking Protection Guarantee: Airbnb will find a similar or better home if a Host has to cancel a booking within 30 days of check-in, or offer a refund.
  • Check-in Guarantee: Airbnb will find a similar or better home, or offer a refund, if you can’t check in to your home and the Host cannot resolve the issue.
  • Get-What-You-Booked Guarantee: Guests now have 72 hours to report if something in the home isn’t as advertised and Airbnb will find a similar or better home, or offer a refund. Examples from Airbnb include if a refrigerator stops working or if there are fewer bedrooms in the home than listed. Previously, Airbnb only offered guests 24 hours to report an issue.
  • 24-Hour Safety Line: Guests who feel unsafe in an Airbnb now have access to “specially-trained safety agents” all day and all night.

AirCover is built directly into the Airbnb app and website, with a team of agents available for last-minute rebooking assistance so if any issues arise you can quickly receive support.

Bottom line

Airbnb knows that the world continues to change, along with people’s travel habits. The new category feature opens a world of possibility for travelers who aren’t sure where they want to go — or have always wanted to stay somewhere extremely unique but couldn’t put the pieces together on Airbnb. Split Stays is a great addition to that feature, giving travelers more options and the opportunity to see more of the world than just the place we thought we wanted to go. AirCover is a long-overdue update to help travelers feel more secure in their bookings, especially in this ever-changing world.

Whether you hate travel planning or you like it more than the actual trip itself, these updates will certainly give would-be travelers a lot more access to unique homes and destinations that might have otherwise slipped through the cracks.

Featured photo courtesy of Airbnb.

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