As much as Airbnb has reshaped the landscape for us B&B owners, it also presents new opportunities. The wise host would do well to make the most of them, but there are a few catches of which you should also be aware. Airbnb is still relatively young as a hospitality business, and there are nuances to its system that don’t necessarily lend themselves to the same sorts of promotion and price-setting as channel managers do.
Here is how to set yourself up so you don't waste time and lose money.
Setting your prices can be a little tricky as B&Bs are more expensive than many other “hosts” present on the platform. You need to consider remaining competitive while still hitting the prices you expect. Here's how.
First, the base rate for each property can be set for one person and increased by X for each extra guest. Only the base rate will show in the searches, so you should be in good shape when potential customers compare you to your competition. The total cost only shows after the guests enter the dates and the number of their party's members into the calendar on your profile.
There is also the option to add a ONE-OFF cleaning fee. You have two options here: don’t put a cleaning fee and mention it in your profile, OR set a fee and only clean the room before and after the guests stay. If you offer daily maid service, as we do, you may find that it's not a critical service. We have found that all Airbnb guests don’t expect this, nor are they much bothered by it. Consider the daily maid service optional.
On Airbnb, there is no option to add breakfast or other amenities on top of the room cost. In many ways, it is best to advertise as “Room Only” so that you remain competitive on price. You can then mention additional perks in your room description and upsell them when you communicate with your guests. But be sure to include pictures! It's one thing for your guests to hear that they will be greeted with fresh fruit, and quite another for them to see a bowl of grapes waiting on your B&B's table.
It is important to have a good profile that speaks to your ideal guests. In the copywriting world, this is called an avatar.
Picture your ideal guests and write as if you are talking to them. Use descriptive words to paint a picture that you know will appeal. Be it your level of service, your Unique Selling Point (or USP), or your amenities, stress that. You only have 500 characters (including spaces) to capture your guests and make them want to book your accommodation. With a world of choices at their fingertips, customers' attention spans are not what they used to be.
Your title is also key. Some of the most successful hosts on Airbnb have a short but punchy header, making use of capitals and power words to grab users.
Good pictures are essential as the counterweight to your good profile copy. It is well known in the hospitality industry that bad images put guests off. You will be judged on how your visuals look. Make a positive impression with large, high-res pictures and ideal angles of your rooms!
How to optimize your Airbnb listing with Danny from Optimize my Airbnb
We have found it hard to get traction on Airbnb. Reviews are the social currency that users are looking for there, and until you have quite a few, guests may not opt to stay with you. Good B&B hosts do lose out to less professional hospitalities purely because the lesser B&B has more reviews.
To get the traction you may have to slash prices until you get 5 to 10 reviews. Then you can up the ante. When we started on Airbnb, we only listed two of our three rooms on the platform so that we could avoid having to drop all our prices.
Syncing your calendars is the hardest part. A lot of channel managers are behind when it comes to Airbnb. We found it easier not to enable instant booking on Airbnb, as it is easy to accidentally double-book when you have to flip back and forth between room schedules.
Hosts get one free cancellation on Airbnb, which resets after six months. Otherwise, cancellations will cost you £60 apiece. A notification will also appear in your review section saying that you, the host, cancelled a booking. That note is permanent.
Trips and Experiences
In addition to rooms, Airbnb also allows hosts to offer Experiences. If this is a service you already support, I advise also applying for the Trips program. Take advantage of this new opportunity and use Airbnb to expose yourself to a wider market. Seeing as Trips is in its infancy, you have a good chance to establish yourself early. You'll stand out of the crowd now because not many people are involved yet, and later, your good reputation will pay off.
There is a lot to take in with Airbnb and it will take you a while to learn how to manage on the platform. At the end of the day, however, all successful hosts know that you need more than one stream of income. Airbnb is another source from which to draw from.
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