Planning a big Memorial Day party kickoff to the summer? Or a midsummer Independence Day bash? Don’t try it at an Airbnb rental.
Airbnb announced that the company will be instituting strict “anti-party” restrictions for bookings on July 4th, 2022. The company for the first time will expand these restrictions for Memorial Day weekend.
The National Football League (NFL) is jokingly called the “no-fun league” for its banning of player celebrations. To some, it may appear that Airbnb’s “anti-party” initiative is an attempt to snatch the no-fun crown. Or is Airbnb trying to protect communities—and its own reputation—from the consequences of out-of-control partying?
Who doesn’t love a good party, especially one in a rented house you don’t have to clean up after? Memories of TV shows and movies about parties like Project X (“a celebration of bad behavior”) have no doubt stuck in the minds of former teenagers now old enough to book their own rental.
This, of course, is exactly what home share leaders like Airbnb and VRBO do not want. Perhaps the biggest horror show was in 2019, when a one-day Halloween rental in Orinda, California, turned into a hundred-person party and a shooting that killed five.
That incident got the attention of Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, resulting in the announcement of Airbnb’s global party ban in August 2020. Airbnb’s Parties and Events policy prohibits gatherings of more than sixteen people and “all disruptive parties and events…Guests who throw such parties and potentially hosts may be suspended or removed from Airbnb’s platform.”
The company is also trying to stop unauthorized parties at Airbnb listings by “blocking certain one-night reservation attempts and redirecting certain two-night reservation attempts for booking guests who do not have a history of positive reviews.” As an Airbnb spokesperson put it, “As summer is rapidly approaching, we continue to build on our commitment to try to stop as many unauthorized parties as possible in the US.”
Airbnb claims the ban has resulted in fewer unauthorized parties. Over July 4th weekend in 2021, 126,000 guests without histories of positive reviews were ‘impacted’ by the anti-party system. Airbnb’s official party policy is here.
Still, issues remain. In April 2022, a host rented a property in suburban Houston via Airbnb. It turned out to be for a 16-year old’s birthday party. Unfortunately it also featured a 23-second, 40-shot gun battle. Fortunately, there was just one injury, but many parked cars with bullet holes.
Airbnb, dependent on maintaining good relations with communities, is trying to “raise awareness of our Neighborhood Support Line” at airbnb.com/neighbors. It includes a 24/7 hotline for neighbors to contact Airbnb in real-time “if they spot a party in progress at a home that they believe is listed on Airbnb.” If so, Airbnb says their Safety team will work to support the neighbor, work with law enforcement, and act against the people responsible for the party.
Airbnb says it will leverage its technology that restricts local or last-minute bookings by guests without a history of positive reviews on Airbnb. Guests with a history of positive reviews on Airbnb will not be subject to these restrictions.
Airbnb is also introducing “anti-party attestations” for guests trying to make local reservations. They must affirmatively attest that they understand that Airbnb bans parties. If they break the rule, they may be subject to legal action from Airbnb.
Interestingly, rivals Airbnb and Vrbo (an Expedia brand), the two most popular vacation rental platforms among guests and property managers, work together on what they call the Community Integrity program.
Hari Nair, SVP Lodging Account Management at Expedia, says, “We share that same sentiment, and we collaborate with Airbnb.” The two companies share data on party-throwing hosts and guests, so someone causing issues does not end up listing on the other site unaware.
Airbnb says it is also working on risk-detection technologies “that help stop disruptive parties before they even start.” One such technology, Noise Aware, is offered to hosts by Vrbo as well. Noise Aware is a device that monitors the loudness, or audio volume, at the rental property.
The host or owner of the property gets a “ping” on their smartphone if audio volume in the house exceeds a certain level, explained Tim Rosolio, Vacation Rental Partner Success at Vrbo. He says the device is about $150, for which the host pays. Rosolio himself operates a vacation rental on the Vrbo platform. When he’s gotten pinged, he simply texted the guest, and got a quick apology and lower volume.
Nair says wild parties get lots of press but represent a tiny portion of Vrba’s business. “Most people are reasonable travelers.” Nair says that Vrbo skews towards families and large groups, vs couples and individuals. “We ask our hosts to set rules, like a maximum number of people, use products like Noise Aware, have a Ring device.”
The idea is to maintain a friendly family environment—and to keep movies like Project X on the TV screen, not happening live in the house.