Airbnb refocuses on cheap rooms as its rentals get pricier

It's also introducing a slew of updates to its platform.

Dado Ruvic / reuters

The pandemic is over, according to Airbnb (that's debatable), so the company is gearing up for a massive summer of vacationing. It's introducing over 50 new features to its rental platform, including an expansion of the more transparent pricing it unveiled last year. Most importantly, though, it's refocusing on the pitch that made the company a success: Being able to easily rent low-cost rooms. It's relaunching that experience as "Airbnb Rooms," which will make it easier to find private rooms, as well as offer more details up-front to potential renters.

A new "Host Passport" feature will help you get to know hosts before booking, a useful feature since you'll most likely be sharing their living space. Listings can also show if a bedroom has its own lock, and if the bathrooms are private or shared with the host. “Airbnb Rooms are often more affordable than hotels, and they’re the most authentic way to experience a city," Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky said in a statement. "This is the soul of Airbnb.”

The company says it'll have over a million Airbnb Rooms listings, and that more than 80 percent of them will cost under $100 a night. Given how much Airbnb prices have skyrocketed over the last few years, as hosts pumped up cleaning costs and built mini-rental empires, it makes sense for the company to highlight its more affordable offerings. For many travelers, including this reporter, hotels often seem cheaper and easier to book than many Airbnb options.

As for other upgrades, Airbnb will also let you view checkout instructions before completing a booking (which could be a useful red flag for potential nightmare hosts), it's improved map performance and revamped wishlists completely (including the ability to write notes). The company is also reducing service fees for stays longer than three months, as well as for stays longer than a month if you pay with a linked bank account. Not surprisingly, Airbnb is also getting into the pay over time game with a new partnership with Klarna.