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Airbnb CEO: AI Can Help Vet Properties and Guests

Airbnb’s CEO said AI can help the company find better listings… and better guests.

In a long interview with Bloomberg News published Monday (Oct. 2), Brian Chesky discussed the company’s artificial intelligence (AI) use as part of a larger strategy for improving things at his vacation rental platform.

“We need to get our house in order,” Chesky said. “We need to make sure the listings are great, we’re providing great customer service and we’re affordable. And I’ve told our team that we can get back to creating new and exciting things once we’ve fixed that foundation.”

AI can help make those repairs by helping verify listings. The company asks hosts to submit interior and exterior property photos, and then puts those images into a system that reads the photos and matches them with other databases (such as Google Earth). 

The technology can also help ferret out problem guests, such as those who throw house parties in violation of Airbnb policies.

“We’ve used machine learning techniques to look at the last billion and a half guest arrivals and see which yielded a party and which didn’t,” Chesky said. “If you try to do this through a human eye, you might not notice any patterns, but AI can look through over a billion data points, find a lot of similarities and create a rule set.” 

If an attempted booking sets off alarms, he added, “we either stop them or we ask them for more information, until we either get comfortable with you or we don’t get comfortable with you.”

In addition, Chesky suggested the company could give hosts dynamic pricing insights as it focuses on affordability and tries to compete with hotels.

“We’re [currently] giving tools to hosts to compare the prices of their listings to others in their neighborhood — and while we don’t yet have a hotel comparison, we do encourage them to look at rates for hotels in their area just so they have a sense of what travelers are getting on other platforms,” Chesky said.

Among the difficulties Airbnb is facing is New York City’s new rules for short-term rentals, which require hosts to register with the city, meet requirements like not renting out an entire apartment or home, and remaining present during their guests’ short-term stays.

Airbnb has called the requirements a “de facto ban on short-term rentals.

Now, Chesky said the company is exploring a different tactic in New York, with Airbnb offering “experiences,” in which hosts offer services like guided tours instead of rooms.

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