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An Interview with Airbnb: How Vacation Rental Managers Can Leverage Assets

Since August 2008, Airbnb has linked 60 million travelers looking for unique experiences in more than 34,000 cities and more than 190 countries  at any price point.

Eight years into connecting property owners and managers with travelers, Airbnb has left an indelible mark on the vacation rental industry. The San Francisco-based company has charted a new path for ways in which overnight, week-long or month-long stays are marketed, whether for the occasional or frequent traveler.

Online bookings with instant confirmation reserved from a desktop, mobile phone or tablet have opened doors and brought travelers from all over the world to thresholds. Spacious homes, cozy bungalows and cute cottages – even castles – have created opportunities for hosts to monetize extra space in Europe, the U.S., Asia, Latin America and Australia.

We spent a little time with Amanda Felson, Strategic Partnerships Manager at Airbnb. Amanda offered insight into the company’s partnership with Kigo and how hosts can appeal to travelers and get the most out of their rental properties in vacation destinations.

Tweet: "Airbnb has linked 60 million travelers in more than 34,000 cities and 190 countries." @kigoapp


Here’s what she had to say:

Kigo: What are the trends in the vacation booking industry? What are people looking for?

Amanda: We’re seeing significant gains in the number of properties who opt into “Instant Book” reservation settings – bookings that are confirmed immediately following a guest inquiry. Digitally savvy audiences want instant bookable homes and want to transact online. They want immediate confirmation that their reservation is accepted and that their holiday is booked. And that’s something that we’re definitely leveraging here at Airbnb. All of the properties in vacation destinations that come through our API connection are automatically set for Instant Book, and Kigo Property Managers can feel confident managing their availability with real-time calendar synchronization. It makes it easier for them to leverage the demand we see readily available on Airbnb.

Kigo: Instant Booking is great and convenient, but it may seem impersonal to some who prefer to speak directly with the homeowners before deciding to book. How can travelers, homeowners, and Airbnb hosts feel more comfortable with each other during the process?

Amanda: Airbnb is a very personal travel platform. People who list their home are considered a “host” and our travelers are their “guests.” We offer identity verification for both hosts and guests, and hosts opting into Instant Book can require guests to complete that verification process online or offline before the booking is confirmed. Regardless of whether the booking is instantly confirmed, guests are encouraged to reach out, engage with the hosts and share information about themselves.

Kigo: Are there specific demographics who are Airbnb travelers compared to others?

Amanda: It tends to be that the Airbnb traveler is younger, but we see a lot of different travelers looking for their summer vacation on Airbnb. With the wide availability and familiarity with Airbnb, we see our users book more last-minute vacations during non-peak seasons.  It’s definitely a huge opportunity for both the host and the local economy.

Kigo: So there is an opportunity for Airbnb hosts who have a steady stream of bookings to fill in the gaps with bookings during non-peak seasons using Airbnb and Kigo?

Amanda: Yes, absolutely. Airbnb is a globally recognized hospitality company with over 3 million homes on the our platform. We have had over 100 million guest arrivals who travel from all over the world, every day. For our hosts and guests, we also offer a low host commission (3-5%), a secure payment platform, and 24/7 customer support for both hosts and guests.

Kigo: Hosting an international traveler may be a little intimidating for some, not knowing cultures, etc. Should hosts do anything different to accommodate someone from another country?

Amanda: First and foremost, we recommend that the host make sure the listing is as accurate as possible. Hosts should be as explicit as possible around what will or not be provided, e.g. through pictures and amenities. Additionally, Airbnb’s messaging platform automatically translates text from the host’s to the guest’s preferred language, so we make it very easy for our users to communicate with each other. It makes it very easy to manage all expectations before the trip starts.

Kigo: You mention listing amenities. Let’s talk about how hosts should list their properties and appeal to travelers. What are the keys to a winning listing?

Amanda: Not only are photos key, but so are host reviews. Airbnb has a 2-way review system where guests and hosts review each other post-stay. We also reward hosts who consistently provide high quality trip experiences with a “Superhost” status that appears on a host profile. Superhosts must have at least 80% 5* reviews, and respond to >90% of all messages within 24 hours. Hosts can track their Superhost status from the personal Airbnb profile.

Kigo: I can imagine that good, quality photos are important in selling the home to the traveler.

Amanda: Yes. Our travelers expect high resolution photos on our platform, and we recommend a minimum photo resolution of 1024 x 683 pixels at 72 dpi. That’s doable on iPhone as well as professional cameras.

Kigo: So, how many photos and what type of amenities should be posted? After all, the traveler won’t likely see the property until the moment he or she drives up the driveway, right?

Amanda: If you’re touting amenities, travelers want to see pictures of them: everything from pools, helicopter pads, gardens and pictures of each bedroom -- those details are important. In general, 10 photos is a minimum but the more professionally listed the photos, the better!

Amanda Felson leads Global Strategic Partnerships for Airbnb's Vacation Rentals team. She manages the identification, onboarding, and ongoing relationship with key supply partners in Airbnb's global vacation rental markets.

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