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Airbnb makes it easier to turn your home into a hotel

Company announces new hosting tools at Paris event

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Airbnb

Airbnb is making it easier for hosts to rent out their homes and target business travelers with a new suite of tools announced today. With the new features, users can have their homes certified as "business travel ready," and can automatically adjust nightly prices according to demand in their area. Airbnb has also struck partnerships with a group of smart lock companies to allow hosts and guests to more easily exchange keys.

The company unveiled the features Thursday at the Airbnb Open in Paris, where VP of product Joe Zadeh described them as a way to personalize and streamline the hosting process. "Our mission on our product development team is to make it incredibly easy to be a successful host," Zadeh said.

Corporate travelers have become a point of focus for Airbnb in recent months. Earlier this year, it expanded its business program worldwide, after launching a limited version with 250 companies in 2014. Under the changes announced today, homes can now be branded as "business travel ready" if they offer certain hotel-like amenities, including Wi-Fi, a designated workspace, an iron, a hair dryer, and hangers. Hosts must also offer 24-hour check-in and cannot cancel a reservation within seven days of booking. Rentals that meet these criteria will be identified with a new badge on the company's site.

Smart pricing, smart locks

Other tools aim to smooth out the logistics involved with pricing and hosting. The new "smart pricing" feature uses data from other listings to automatically adjust rental prices according to the market. Airbnb has begun using machine learning to make it easier for hosts to price their properties, and earlier this year unveiled a price tips tool that allows hosts to calibrate pricing on a day-by-day basis. With smart pricing, those changes will now be more automated. Hosts can set a range of minimum and maximum prices, and the site will determine an appropriate price every 24 hours based on a range of factors, including other listings in the area, time of the year, and weather conditions.

Airbnb is also working to expand keyless entry options for guests and hosts with a new tool that allows hosts to link their accounts with Nest, Yale, and other smart lock makers. This gives each key provider access to a host's calendar and booking information, allowing the company to automatically generate new entry codes for every guest's stay. (Previously, hosts with smart locks had to manually request new codes.) An Airbnb spokesperson says this marks the first time that the company has agreed to share booking information with third-party companies. Hosts without smart locks can still sync their accounts with KeyCafe, a company that allows travelers to pick up keys at nearby locations.

The overall aim is to create a more personalized and automated experience for Airbnb hosts, many of whom were on-hand for today's announcement in Paris. In addition to the new site features, the company has created a community center forum, where hosts can exchange tips, and is launching a mentorship program that pairs new hosts with Airbnb veterans in their cities. Hosts will also see a revamped dashboard on the site, allowing them to see pending requests, reviews, and upcoming guests in a glance.

Airbnb has seen dramatic growth

Today's changes come at a time of rapid growth for Airbnb, which now encompasses nearly 2 million listings across the world. In September, Airbnb announced that 17 million people stayed in Airbnb properties during the summer of 2015, compared to just 47,000 in the summer of 2010.

Yet much like the ride-hailing service Uber, Airbnb's dramatic growth has come with controversy. The site has come under fire most recently in San Francisco, where some blame it for rising housing prices, and regulators in New York have cracked down on illegal short-term rentals. In an effort to defuse some of that criticism, Airbnb announced yesterday that it would work to prevent its short-term rentals from impacting the availability of longer-term properties, and that it would ensure that its users pay any necessary hotel or tourist taxes.

The company says it will continue to tweak its tools to meet the needs of its growing and diversifying user base. "Our team has spent countless hours working with hosts through feedback sessions, research and testing, to understand their needs, which led us to build a suite of tools that provide tailored insights to help our hosts meet their goals," Zadeh said in a statement. "This product suite simplifies many aspects of being a host and allows them to focus on what they do best — provide truly great hospitality."