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

By PREETIKA RANA
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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Booming demand for wellness tourism shows no slowing, with travel related to health and well-being projected to have reached $1 trillion last year and to hit $1.3 trillion by 2025, according to the Global Wellness Institute, a nonprofit based in Miami.

Curated wellness travel programs are especially sought-after, specifically holistic treatments focused on longevity. Affluent travellers not only are making time to hit the gym while gallivanting across the globe, they’re also seeking destinations that specifically cater to their wellness goals, including treatments aimed at living longer.

“I believe Covid did put a spotlight on self-care and well-being,” says Penny Kriel, corporate director of spa and wellness at Salamander Collection, a group of luxury properties in places like Washington, D.C., and Charleston, South Carolina. But Kriel says today’s spas are more holistic, encouraging folks to understand the wellness concept and incorporate it into their lifestyle more frequently.

“With the evolution of treatment products and technology, spas have been able to enhance their offerings and appeal to more travellers,” Kriel says.

While some growth is connected to the variety of treatments available, results and the digital world are also contributing to the wellness boom.

“The efficacy and benefits of these treatments continue to drive bookings and interest, especially with the support of social media, influencers, and celebrity endorsements,” Kriel says.

While genetics, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices such as regular exercise, a diet free of processed foods, sufficient sleep, and human connection play essential roles in living well and longer, experts believe in holistic therapies to help manage stress, boost immunity, and ultimately influence length and quality of life.

Anti Ageing and Beyond

“For years, people have been coming to spas, booking treatments, and gaining advice on how to turn the clock back with anti ageing and corrective skin treatments,” Kriel says. However, today’s treatments are far more innovative.

On Marinella Beach in Porto Rotondo, on the Italian island of Sardinia, guests at the five-star Abi d’Oru Hotel & Spa can experience the resort’s one-of-a-kind “longevity treatment,” a unique antiaging facial using one of the island’s native grapes: Cannonau. The world’s first declared “Blue Zone”—one of five designated areas where people live longer than average, some into their 100s—Sardinia produces this robust red wine varietal, the most widely planted on the island.

Known as Garnacha in Spain and Grenache in France, Cannonau supposedly contains two to three times more antioxidants than other red-wine grapes. By incorporating Cannonau, Abi Spa says its unique 50-minute longevity session increases collagen production for firmer, younger-looking skin.

Maintaining a youthful appearance is just one facet of longevity treatments, which range from stress-reduction sessions like massage to nutritional support and sleep programs, Kriel says. Some retreats also offer medical services such as IV infusions and joint injections.

Keeping with the trend, Kriel is expanding Salamander Collection’s existing spa services, such as detox wraps and lymphatic drainage, to include dedicated “Wellness Rooms,” new vegan and vegetarian menu items, and well-being workshops. “Sleep, nutrition, and mindfulness will be a big focus for integration in 2024,” she says.

Data-Driven Wellness

Skyler Stillings, an exercise physiologist at Sensei Lanai, a Four Seasons Resort—an adults-only wellness centre in Lanai, Hawaii—says guests were drawn to the social aspect when the spa opened in November 2021.

“We saw a huge need for human connection,” she recalls. But over the past few years, what’s paramount has shifted. “Longevity is trending much more right now.”

Human connection is a central draw for guests at Sensei Lanai, an adults-only and wellness-focused Four Seasons Resort in Hawaii.
Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort

Billionaire co-founder of tech company Oracle Larry Ellison and physician and scientist Dr. David Angus co-founded Sensei. After the death of a mutual close friend, the duo teamed up to create longevity-based wellness retreats to nurture preventative care and a healthy lifestyle. In addition to the Lanai location, the brand established Sensei Porcupine Creek in Greater Palm Springs, California, in November 2022.

Sensei has a data-driven approach. The team performs a series of assessments to obtain a clearer picture of a guest’s health, making wellness recommendations based on the findings. While Sensei analyses that data to curate a personalised plan, Stillings says it’s up to the guests which path they choose.

Sensei’s core three-day retreat is a “Guided Wellness Experience.” For spa treatments, each guest checks into their own “Spa Hale,” a private 1,000-square-foot bungalow furnished with an infrared sauna, a steam shower, a soaking tub, and plunge pools. The latest therapies include Sarga Bodywalking—a barefoot myofascial release massage, and “Four Hands in Harmony,” a massage with two therapists working in tandem. Sensei Guides provide take-home plans so guests can continue their wellness journeys after the spa.

Sensei Lanai, an adults-only and wellness-focused Four Seasons Resort in Hawaii.
Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort

Sanctuaries for Longevity

Headquartered in Switzerland with hotels and on-site spas across the globe, Aman Resorts features an integrative approach, combining traditional remedies with modern medicine’s advanced technologies. Tucked behind the doors of the storied Crown Building in Midtown Manhattan, Banya Spa House at Aman New York—the brand’s flagship spa in the Western Hemisphere—is a 25,000-square-foot, three-floor urban oasis.

Yuki Kiyono, global head of health and wellness development at Aman, says the centre provides access to holistic and cutting-edge treatments benefiting physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being. Aman’s customisable “Immersion Programs” consist of a three- or five-day immersion. “The programs encompass treatments and experiences that touch every significant aspect to create a path for longevity, from meditation and mindfulness to nutrition and movement,” Kiyono explains.

Banya Spa House at Aman New York.
Robert Rieger

The spa’s “Tei-An Wellness Solution” features 90- to 150-minute sessions using massage, cryotherapy, and Vitamin IV infusions. Acupuncture is also on offer.

“With its rich history of Chinese Medicine, modern research, and the introduction of sophisticated electro-acupuncture medicine, acupuncture has been proven to assist with problems and increase performance,” Kiyono says.

Resetting the Mind and Body

Beyond longevity, “healthspan”—the number of years a person can live in good health free of chronic disease—is the cornerstone of Mountain Trek Health Reset Retreat’s program in British Columbia, Canada.

Kirk Shave, president and program director, and his team employ a holistic approach, using lifestyles in long-living Blue Zones as a point of reference.

“We improve our daily lifestyle habits, so we live vitally as long as we’re meant to live,” Shave says of the retreat. He built the program from an anthropological stance, referencing humans as farmers, hunters, and gatherers based on their eating and sleeping patterns. Food includes vegetable-centric meals sans alcohol, sugar, bread, or dairy.

Guests wake at dawn each day and have access to sunrise yoga, several hours of “flow” or slow hiking, spa treatments, forest bathing, calming crystal singing-bowl and sound therapy sessions, and classes on stress reduction—one of Mountain Trek’s primary goals. The program motivates people to spend much of their time in nature because it’s been proven to reduce cortisol, the stress hormone that can lead to inflammation and disease when elevated for extended periods.

While most guests aren’t aware of how immersive Mountain Trek’s program is when they arrive, they leave the resort revitalized after the structured, one-week program. Set in the Kootenays overlooking its eponymous river, the resort and adventure promise what Shave calls a “visceral experience of transformation.”

“They’re interested in coming to be in nature,” Shave says of the guests. “They hit a wall in their life and slipped backwards, so they know they need a reset.”

Banya Spa House at Aman New York provides access to holistic and cutting-edge treatments benefiting physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being.
Robert Rieger

This article first appeared in the Winter 2024 issue of Mansion Global Experience Luxury.

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