Welcome to Your Airbnb, the Cleaning Fees Are $143 and You’ll Still Have to Wash the Linens | Kanebridge News
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Welcome to Your Airbnb, the Cleaning Fees Are $143 and You’ll Still Have to Wash the Linens

Growing to-do lists despite soaring charges stress travelers; ‘This kind of changes the whole vibe’

Mon, Sep 19, 2022 8:51amGrey Clock 4 min

Christina Marie spent her last vacation day fretting over finishing her chores. Vacuum? Check. Laundry? Check. Dishes? Check.

Her Airbnb in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., had an exhaustive list of cleaning requirements and she wasn’t going to let her guest rating dip over it. Cooking breakfast for her family of six would mean more cleaning, so everyone ate bananas and Pop-Tarts that morning. When one of the kids reached for a cup after she loaded the dishwasher, Ms. Marie roared: “Put the cup away. No more, no more!”

“You don’t want to wake up at 6 a.m. to do chores when you’re on vacation,” said Ms. Marie, a Sacramento school teacher. “This kind of changes the whole vibe. It’s stressful.”

Longtime Airbnb users are angry about lengthy—and, sometimes, absurd—chores set out by some Airbnb hosts. Hosts say they need guests to do more as Covid-19 has changed sanitation expectations and inflation has boosted the cost of cleaners.

Airbnbs have been in high demand so hosts are getting away with charging higher nightly rates and tacking on bigger cleaning fees. Guests have been striking back on social media, complaining about being asked to mow the lawn or feed farm animals.

Many travelers spent part of their summer breaks deep cleaning vacation rentals to avoid extra charges and bad reviews. Some are switching back to hotels to avoid the hassle and the clean-up fees that can be hundreds of dollars.

Melissa Muzyczka was planning a romantic getaway at a lakeside cottage in Canada’s Quebec province, but ended up booking a spa hotel after reading through the chores. The rental property didn’t have garbage pick-up so guests were expected to take their rubbish with them when they left.

That’s not how she wanted to spend her first vacation in two-and-half years.

“My husband and I would be freaking out, carrying trash and trying to locate dumpsters,” said Ms. Muzyczka, a 31-year-old graphic designer.

She posted a TikTok video about her experience. It went viral, drawing about 5,000 comments.

Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. channeled this angst in an online ad this summer with a family entering a spooky rental with a long list scrawled on the wall: “NO WHISTLING…NO FEET ON FURNITURE…NO SANDWICHES.”

“Wow, that’s a lot of rules,” says the renter in the commercial.

Guests say they are frustrated because the cleaning fee has gone up while hosts have tacked on extra chores. They say some hosts don’t list cleaning requirements online, surprising guests after they book.

Necole Kane wasn’t expecting to do a thing. Her $299 Airbnb in Sedona, Ariz., came with a $375 cleaning fee. Then the host piled on a laundry list of chores.

Ms. Kane said she spent so much time running around cleaning like a maid that she was 15 minutes late for a canyon tour.

“It was too much,” said the 41-year-old founder of a feminine wellness brand. “I wanted to leave a negative review so bad.”

She still left a five-star review because she felt bad marking down the property. Its views of the area’s famous red rocks and the visits from wild bunnies, coyotes and javelinas made her stay “magical,” she wrote on Airbnb.

Airbnb lets hosts set their cleaning fees, though the company suggests they do away with it if guests are required to run chores. “Would you like guests to load dirty dishes into the dishwasher or strip the bed linen before checkout? If so, consider charging a very minimal cleaning fee—or no fee at all,” the company advised hosts late last year.

The company said around 55% of its active listings charge a cleaning fee, which on average makes up less than 10% of the total reservation cost.

Airbnb’s cleaning fee across all U.S. properties averaged $143 as of June 30, a 44% increase from five years ago, according to market-research firm AirDNA. Coastal properties with five or more bedrooms had the highest fees, charging $420 on average.

Airbnb ratcheted up its cleaning protocols during Covid-19, with a 36-page handbook requiring that hosts wash all hard surfaces with soap and water, vacuum the floors and disinfect switches and electronics, among other things. The policy is still in effect, Airbnb said, and all hosts are required to declare that they are following them.

Hosts say that a helping hand from renters can go a long way when properties are booked back-to-back. Starting the dishwasher and laundry early means the next guests don’t have to wait even if the cleaners are running late.

“Sometimes guests are asked to do two to three things and they feel like, ‘Oh my God, I’m doing everything,’ ” said Gabby Wallace who runs Airbnbs in Maine, Austin and Kansas City. “There are close to a hundred things I have on the checklist for my cleaners,” like checking couches for lost items and picking hair out of the bathtub drain, she said.

Ms. Wallace encourages her guests to empty the trash, run the laundry and start the dishwasher, though she outlines that none of it is mandatory.

Some hosts aren’t fans of chores. Deric Tikotsky, who runs rental properties in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., tells his guests to relax and leave everything as it is when they leave. He thinks some hosts are squeezing extra labor out of their guests to cut back on the number of hours they pay cleaners.

“This chore business is giving us a bad rep and causing guests to flee to hotels,” he said.

Last month, Amanda Morari spent her sister’s bachelorette weekend at a lakefront cottage in Ontario province. The washer was out-of-order and the vacuum wouldn’t charge so the women spent their last day “wetting paper towels and wiping the floor,” she said.

The host told her not to worry about it, Ms. Morari said, but then came the unexpected: she got a three-star review because the cleaning wasn’t up to the mark. Her perfect five-star rating dipped to 4.1.

She’s booked her next trip with her boyfriend at a hotel.

“It’s 50 bucks cheaper,” she said. “And we don’t have to clean anything.”


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Capri Coffer socks away $600 a month to help fund her travels. The Atlanta health-insurance account executive and her husband couldn’t justify a family vacation to the Dominican Republic this summer, though, given what she calls “astronomical” plane ticket prices of $800 each.

The price was too high for younger family members, even with Coffer defraying some of the costs.

Instead, the family of six will pile into a rented minivan come August and drive to Hilton Head Island, S.C., where Coffer booked a beach house for $650 a night. Her budget excluding food for the two-night trip is about $1,600, compared with the $6,000 price she was quoted for a three-night trip to Punta Cana.

“That way, everyone can still be together and we can still have that family time,” she says.

With hotel prices and airfares stubbornly high as the 2023 travel rush continues—and overall inflation squeezing household budgets—this summer is shaping up as the season of travel trade-offs for many of us.

Average daily hotel rates in the top 25 U.S. markets topped $180 year-to-date through April, increasing 9.9% from a year ago and 15.6% from 2019, according to hospitality-data firm STR.

Online travel sites report more steep increases for summer ticket prices, with Kayak pegging the increase at 35% based on traveler searches. (Perhaps there is no more solid evidence of higher ticket prices than airline executives’ repeated gushing about strong demand, which gives them pricing power.)

The high prices and economic concerns don’t mean we’ll all be bunking in hostels and flying Spirit Airlines with no luggage. Travellers who aren’t going all-out are compromising in a variety of ways to keep the summer vacation tradition alive, travel agents and analysts say.

“They’re still out there and traveling despite some pretty real economic headwinds,” says Mike Daher, Deloitte’s U.S. transportation, hospitality and services leader. “They’re just being more creative in how they spend their limited dollars.”

For some, that means a cheaper hotel. Hotels.com says global search interest in three-star hotels is up more than 20% globally. Booking app HotelTonight says nearly one in three bookings in the first quarter were for “basic” hotels, compared with 27% in the same period in 2019.

For other travellers, the trade-offs include a shorter trip, a different destination, passing on premium seat upgrades on full-service airlines or switching to no-frills airlines. Budget-airline executives have said on earnings calls that they see evidence of travellers trading down.

Deloitte’s 2023 summer travel survey, released Tuesday, found that average spending on “marquee” trips this year is expected to decline to $2,930 from $3,320 a year ago. Tighter budgets are a factor, he says.

Too much demand

Wendy Marley is no economics teacher, but says she’s spent a lot of time this year refreshing clients on the basics of supply and demand.

The AAA travel adviser, who works in the Boston area, says the lesson comes up every time a traveler with a set budget requests help planning a dreamy summer vacation in Europe.

“They’re just having complete sticker shock,” she says.

Marley has become a pro at Plan B destinations for this summer.

For one client celebrating a 25th wedding anniversary with a budget of $10,000 to $12,000 for a five-star June trip, she switched their attention from the pricey French Riviera or Amalfi Coast to a luxury resort on the Caribbean island of St. Barts.

To Yellowstone fans dismayed at ticket prices into Jackson, Wyo., and three-star lodges going for six-star prices, she recommends other national parks within driving distance of Massachusetts, including Acadia National Park in Maine.

For clients who love the all-inclusive nature of cruising but don’t want to shell out for plane tickets to Florida, she’s been booking cruises out of New York and New Jersey.

Not all of Marley’s clients are tweaking their plans this summer.

Michael McParland, a 78-year-old consultant in Needham, Mass., and his wife are treating their family to a luxury three-week Ireland getaway. They are flying business class on Aer Lingus and touring with Adventures by Disney. They initially booked the trip for 2020, so nothing was going to stand in the way this year.

McParland is most excited to take his teen grandsons up the mountain in Northern Ireland where his father tended sheep.

“We decided a number of years ago to give our grandsons memories,” he says. “Money is money. They don’t remember you for that.”

Fare first, then destination

Chima Enwere, a 28-year old piano teacher in Fayetteville, N.C., is also headed to the U.K., but not by design.

Enwere, who fell in love with Europe on trips the past few years, let airline ticket prices dictate his destination this summer to save money.

He was having a hard time finding reasonable flights out of Raleigh-Durham, N.C., so he asked for ideas in a Facebook travel group. One traveler found a round-trip flight on Delta to Scotland for $900 in late July with reasonable connections.

He was budgeting $1,500 for the entire trip—he stays in hostels to save money—but says he will have to spend more given the pricier-than-expected plane ticket.

“I saw that it was less than four digits and I just immediately booked it without even asking questions,” he says.

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