How I built and grew a successful and profitable Airbnb experience
I’ve been hosting my Airbnb Photography Experience in Melbourne for over 1.5 years now. I started out when the experience side of Airbnb was still pretty new to Melbourne and got to see it grow and grow like crazy over the last year.
I’ve learnt a few things about running a successful experience on Airbnb over time, so if you’ve ever considered setting one up yourself, keep reading for all my best tips.
1. Start out slow and cheap
One of the top tips I can give you is to start with a WAY lower price than what you’re aiming for ultimately. Especially if you’re new to the platform and there are already similar experiences out there, make sure you price your experience at the lower end. I know this can feel frustrating if you know that what you’re offering is worth so much more. But at the start it is SO important to get your reviews up, get people booking your experience and get Airbnb to push it up in search results. It will also help you create a better experience over time, so that once you start upping your prices, you can be sure you’re offering something people actually want and love.
2. Research other similar experiences in different cities
When you first create the experience have a look at similar ones in other places around the world that you can take the best parts from. Don’t straight up copy everything they, but bring your own personality and ideas into it. Analyse what they do well, how they structure their experience, and what they offer their guests. Pay attention to the little details and the things that would make YOU want to book the experience.
3. Have great photos
This is SO SO important. Visuals are everything! It’s the first thing that potential customers will see and pay attention to. It’s what grabs their eye and draws them in, makes them want to click on the experience and read more.
If you’re not a photographer yourself, make sure you either get a friend who’s a photographer to take some great images for you, or even hire a professional photographer. If neither one is an option, see if you can find some amazing free stock photos that you could use.
Whichever option you go for, make sure the photos accurately represent what you’ll be doing, are personable, show some action and have a lifestyle element to them. Don’t make it look too businessy or stock photo like, but show people your personality and what how you’ll actually be spending your time together.
4. Craft your name and description well
Spend a good amount of time working on your title, description and bio. The title is what draws people in and grabs their attention (along with the photos), so this should really be your main focus. Don’t rush this. Again, take a look at successful experiences across the world and use the basic structure as inspiration to craft your own name. Make it descriptive and enticing. Something that brings across that your experience is unique, popular, “secret”, rare, hard to get in, etc. Use words that create urgency or unconscious pressure by communicating that it’s “limited” or they can only get it in your city.
When you research other experiences with well crafted titles, pay attention to what draws you in and makes you want to click and read more.
In terms of the description and your bio, write it as if you’re talking to a friend. Use words you would actually use and write it the way you would actually talk. Airbnb experiences are personal and meant to create a bond between people, making your guests feel as if they’re just hanging out with a friend. So be personal and share your story.
5. Create a personal connection with your guests
Once you’re all set up, ready to go, and get your first few bookings, make sure you deliver the BEST experience possible to your first few guests. Of course you should always deliver your very best service and provide value, but this is especially important at the start, as this will either make or break the future of your experience.
Make sure you really give your guests your full attention, go above and beyond, be open, generous, listen to them, make them feel important. Listen to their stories, get them to open up and share whatever they want to share. Let them speak. Ask them questions.
Of course you don’t want to create an interview-like situation, so equally share something about yourself, let them in, open up. But don’t overdo it - this is about them. People feel more important and understood if you listen to them and show interest, than if you’re constantly talking. If they want to know something specific about you, they’ll ask.
At the same time, share what your experience (or city, or whatever you’re delivering) is all about.
6. Listen to your customers and read between the lines
Pay attention to what your guests like and dislike. You can either ask them directly, or read between the lines and pay attention to little cues they’re giving you. Make sure you incorporate that feedback into your experience and constantly keep improving it.
After the experience, ask your guests what they liked most, what would make them recommend your experience, and what you could improve. Do it from a point of sincerity, not to feel offended if they offer feedback. It will all help you improve.
At the same time, don’t let it derail you. If one person one time says something you could improve, don’t instantly go and change everything. If the same feedback comes up time and time again, that’s when you incorporate the feedback.
This leads right into my next point…
7. Who is your ideal guest?
The previous point I made boils down to knowing your ideal customer - who are the guests you commonly attract and want to serve? What do they value? Create an experience that’s for them. Speak to them directly, offer more value for them. This will come over time, as you host more experiences and get to know them better and better. You’ll find there are certain commonalities and things you keep hearing. Your ideal guest will naturally crystallise out of who you want to serve combined with who you’re naturally attracting through the way you present and describe your experience on Airbnb.
8. Communicate openly and clearly
If you keep hearing the same thing over and over again from your guests, make sure you’re communicating clearly. Perhaps they’re sharing that they expected something to go a different way, or maybe people keep asking the same questions.
If that’s the case, pay attention to what you’re communicating in the description, and in your message that you send them right after they book.
Always make sure to send an initial “welcome/thank you” message once they book, letting them know all the most important points again. Make it clear that they can ask for help or let you know if they have questions anytime.
You can set up an automatic thank you message on Airbnb (again, make it personal, even though it’s automated), and create templates for yourself if certain questions keep coming up, so you can save yourself time responding to them. Always insert a little personal touch and something that’s unique to each person. Let them know you’re paying attention to them, who they are, their situation, and you’re not just sending out generic messages.
9. Actively ask for reviews
If you’ve had happy guests and know they enjoyed their time with you, let them know that you would love a review and that it really helps you. ACTIVELY ask for it. You’ll find most people are more than happy to share their experience with others and leave you a great review.
Once they do, publicly respond to show future guests that you’re communicative, and to share a bit of your personality with them before they ever meet or reach out to you.
10. Respond to people quickly
If you get enquiries, make sure to get back to them quickly. This can first of all help you to book someone before they consider going to one of your competitors, and second, it shows them that you’re reliable, professional and serious. It communicates that you care, that you’re responsive and easy to deal with.
11. Optimise your calendar
Another really important point is to consider your calendar. Add available dates a few months in advance, and play around with different days and times. See what’s most popular, and what works best with your schedule. Some guests like booking way in advance, while others (I’d say the majority) book more last-minute. So make sure that the dates and times you add are actually times when you’ll be available (even if it’s a last minute booking for example the day before). It happens. You have to be flexible.
12. Be reliable and stick to your bookings
Don’t cancel experiences! Do whatever you can to honour your bookings and show up (always be in time by the way). Airbnb hates you cancelling, and might at some point even ban your experience from the platform if you keep doing so. I always check the weather forecast in advance, communicate with my guests (see point 7), and do everything I can to make hosting the experience possible.
My experience is an outdoor one, so rain is the most common issue for me. I try to either reschedule (plan and communicate in advance), or if we get caught by unexpected rain (hello Melbourne!), wait it out at the coffee shop before heading out.
Be creative. There are always ways to make it work, if you’re willing and flexible. This really shows how much you value your guests and how much you care about creating and delivering an amazing experience for them. If you go above and beyond, they will appreciate it and probably leave you a brilliant review.
13. Keep up to date with the Airbnb platform and changes
Airbnb has been adding so many new features and benefits to the experience platform since I started hosting, generally making it easier for hosts and creating more flexibility in terms of hosting, pricing, messaging etc.
It’s a good idea to consistently check into the back-end settings of your experience to see what’s new and how you can improve your experience.
14. Pay attention to your stats
As with any business, regularly look at your stats, analyse your reviews, and spend an hour or so each week or month (depending on how often you host) actively improving your experience.
I also track my income and expenses in a spreadsheet each month, so I can clearly see how much comes in, which months are most popular, learn what works best and what I can improve.
15. Know about your competitors, but don’t let it derail or distract you
This can be a tricky one. It’s inevitable that there will be more and more experiences similar to yours popping up in your city. Pay attention to them but stay in your lane. Take a look at what they offer, how they describe their experience, their photos, description, and reviews - and then get back to work. Do your own thing. It can be so tempting (and also downright depressing) if you pay too much time looking at your competitors. So learn from them, see how you can improve your own experience, and then get back to delivering the BEST experience possible for your own guests. They book and love you for a reason. So do you, do your thing, the way only you do it!
16. Build connections with other hosts (in both your city and other places)
This isn’t essential to creating an awesome and profitable experience, but it can help you in the long-run. If other hosts get to know you and you build strong connections and friendships with them, you can recommend each others’ experience to guests, share struggles and help each other out.
In Australia for example, a lot of visitors will travel to both Melbourne and Sydney. If they take one experience in one of the cities and enjoyed it, some of them will feel inclined and motivated to take a similar one in the other city as well. If you have host friends over there, you can recommend each other. Guests always appreciate if they can talk to you about an experience they’ve previously been on, knowing that you have something in common/a common connection. It builds rapport.
As I keep hosting and improving my experience, I will come back to this post and add what I’m learning as I go. For now I would love to hear your ideas with hosting an Airbnb experience and if you have any tips I didn’t mention here.
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