Airbnb announced a global ban on parties at Airbnb listings, capping gatherings to 16.

The company noted that unauthorized parties have never been allowed at its listings. Airbnb said 73% of listings already banned parties in their house rules. Now, hosts or guests who break the rules could be banned from the platform or sued.

Airbnb has been hit with a slew of alarming news of unauthorized large parties. Scrutiny of Airbnb will intensify now that it has filed paperwork for an IPO. Furthermore, these occurrences undermine the relationship and goodwill the company has tried to cultivate with local governments and with the public. This is a critical time for Airbnb to minimize negative publicity. 

Unfortunately for Airbnb, the pandemic has created an unintended demand. With changing local public health mandates, bar and club openings have been in flux. The Information pointed out how Airbnb parties have become an alternative to bars.

The growing number of unruly and sometimes violent incidents comes as some people seek out house-based parties as a replacement for bars, clubs and other gathering spots that have been closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Social gathering demand has been pushed into rentals,” said Andrew Schulz, CEO of NoiseAware.” 

Sean Rakidzich manages more than 100 Airbnb properties in the Houston, Dallas and Philadelphia areas.  He said there were 10 party attempts over a recent weekend at his properties in Philadelphia. He said other hosts have been buzzing about the party problem, too. “It’s currently the biggest problem of our time for hosts. It’s out of corona, into parties,” he said.

The company understands things can go wrong with over 2 million people staying at Airbnbs every night and has built that into their business model. Airbnb allocates about 12% of its budget to operations and support, which include work on safety, customer service and damage claims, in 2019.

In contrast, its marketing spend accounted for over 30% of sales and reached a high of nearly 44% of sales in the first quarter of 2019. Marketing is Airbnb’s forte and prioritized over operational policies and customer support.

Airbnb said that 20% of check-ins result in customer support calls – a metric that the company has tried to lower – but stays that lead to safety incidents account for 0.06% of the 100 million plus trips booked through its platform each year. “The vast majority of problems are mundane and relatively easy to address, such as cancellation issues or host complaints that a guest scratched a table.”

Its customer support operations were further impacted by recent cuts. The Information reported that “when the company laid off about a quarter of its staff in early May, the cuts hit its customer service staff particularly hard.”

Airbnb acknowledges its safety policy gaps and executives are reportedly working to boost support to better screen and safeguard guests. In a video message to hosts, Catherine Powell, Airbnb’s global head of hosting said, “We weren’t ready to provide the support we needed to. We’re focused on addressing this issue and are working around the clock to rebuild the team.” 

Airbnb outlined the safety measures it has implemented so far.

Last year, we began imposing much stricter limits – starting with a global ban on “party houses” – meaning, listings that create persistent neighborhood nuisance. We also launched a 24/7 neighborhood support hotline in the U.S. and Canada – with plans for global expansion – to communicate directly with neighbors and help us effectively enforce the party house ban. This complemented new initiatives to stop unauthorized parties – such as manual review of high-risk reservations, as well as restrictions on allowing guests under the age of 25 without a history of positive reviews to book entire home listings locally.

It also has started to shut down properties for unauthorized parties. According to CBS News, Airbnb is suspending or removing 35 listings in New Jersey that have received complaints or violated party or event policies for “irresponsible behavior.” 

Airbnb has signaled a greater willingness to ramp up enforcement of company safety policies.

photo credit: airbnb

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Categories: Stays