How Does Airbnb Work for Vacation Rental Hosts? ᐅ Guide

Is it worthwhile for vacation rental owners and short-term rental hosts to list and rent out via Airbnb? In our guide, you’ll find out what advantages the booking portal brings you.

Airbnb is an online portal for booking and renting accommodation that connects private owners (also know as hosts or landlords) with guests. Even if you already offer your vacation rental through other booking portals like Booking.com, VRBO or your own vacation rental website, it makes sense to create a profile on Airbnb as well. This way you can address a new, younger target group and become even more successful as a short-term rental host.

A Channel Manager like Smoobu helps you keep track of your bookings and avoid double bookings. The software synchronizes your booking calendars on all booking portals in real time.

What is Airbnb?

Airbnb was founded in 2008 by Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk in San Francisco. The marketplace aims to connect vacation rental private owners with their guests. In doing so, Airbnb provides the platform in the form of a website and as mobile apps and helps with the rental process. In return, the company charges a service fee per booking. We will go into detail about the amount and composition of this commission later in this Airbnb guide.

The beginnings as Airbed & Breakfast

Initially, Airbnb was an Internet platform through which private individuals could rent out vacant rooms in their city apartments, etc., to supplement their budget. Therefore, the booking portal was originally called Airbed & Breakfast (“air mattress and breakfast”). The name was shortened to “Airbnb” over time.

Initially, it was mainly about meeting nice people and showing them the hometown. Guests were supposed to feel less like tourists, sequestered in a hotel and just checking out the sights from the guidebook. Instead, they should get to know the life of the locals, become good friends and get lots of insider tips. Since Airbnb listings are often located in popular cities, they are also an affordable alternative to hotels in terms of price. The first accommodation rented through Airbnb in 2008 was the founders’ apartment.

Today: Professional accommodations

In the meantime, many hosts, owners and landlords of classic vacation apartments and vacation homes also use Airbnb to generate additional income. Booking is straightforward and Airbnb’s design and modern technology appeals to a new, more digital target group who book spontaneously using their smartphones.

Many Airbnb hosts still offer single rooms in their apartments and houses, but often also second homes and secondary residences. Some advertise their apartments only now and then when they are on vacation themselves, others rent out the accommodations permanently.

At the latest since its IPO at the beginning of 2021, Airbnb also wants to grow in the classic vacation regions. After all, bookings here are often much longer than for city trips. For Airbnb, longer stays mean more revenue and are therefore a major growth area. For hosts in these regions, this development is reflected in a steadily increasing share of Airbnb bookings.

Meanwhile, according to Statista, 2 million hosts, owners and landlords worldwide advertise via Airbnb (as of June 2021). This has clearly made it one of the most important booking portals in the world.

Airbnb hosts and guests see themselves part of the Airbnb community

Anyone who wants to benefit from Airbnb hosting tools (whether an owner or guest) must first create an account on the Airbnb website. In doing so, there are some mandatory details to ensure that it is a real person. Since the profiles are rated, hospitality on Airbnb is particularly rewarding. Because with good service, hosts can increase their visibility and bookings.

Instructions: How do I host on Airbnb?

Here you will learn step by step how to become a host on Airbnb:

  1. Register

    Register as a host on the Airbnb hosting website or through your Airbnb app. Creating your profile is free.

  2. Choose type of accommodation

    Here you specify whether you’re renting out a house, a vacation rental, or a single room. You can also set whether it’s a standalone vacation rental or an unoccupied room in your own home.

    Then you set how many guests can stay there and where exactly the apartment is located. You can also specify the equipment such as air conditioning, TV or shared areas such as pool or garden in this step.

  3. Upload photos

    For Airbnb listings, the photos are especially important, because they are the flagship of your ad. Take a look at your competitors’ listings for inspiration. What do you find particularly successful? What should you avoid in your Airbnb ad?

  4. Description of the apartment and surroundings

    Be honest when writing the description and describe your accommodation as well as possible. The title and text should make guests want to book, but not create false expectations. Disappointed customers will leave negative reviews and that will hurt your reputation as an Airbnb host. The style is casual and friendly. The “you” is standard in the Airbnb community.

  5. House rules & requirements for guests

    Besides the Airbnb guidelines (email address, phone number and payment information), what information is required for guests to book your accommodation? Here you can set, for example, that they must accept your house rules before booking. In these house rules you can specify whether the apartment is suitable for babies and small children, whether pets are allowed, smoking is prohibited, etc.

  6. Booking preferences

    Do you want your bookings to be synchronized in the calendar? Do you accept bookings on the day of arrival or do you need at least one day’s notice? When are check-in and check-out available? What is the minimum length of stay. Do you offer permanent rentals?

  7. Airbnb tip: discount for first guests

    Now Airbnb will advise you to offer a discount for the first three bookings. Take this advice, because you’ll earn points with your first guests and get good reviews faster. Especially the first reviews are crucial for your future ranking. Therefore, you should keep the price low in the beginning and increase it later.

  8. Verify account

    You do this by uploading a proof of identity. This is very important and will increase trust among your guests.

  9.  Publish your listing

    That’s it! Now you can publish your listing and soon receive your first bookings.

Booking request vs. instant booking

You decide if your guests need to make a booking request first or if they can book your accommodation immediately. With booking on request you can choose your guests, but you have more work overall and always have to react quickly. Many guests make requests to several accommodations at the same time, but in the end only one host receives the booking. For the others, it was all just unnecessary work.

Direct bookings, on the other hand, have many advantages: Most guests prefer this option because it allows them to plan their trip better. Many travelers therefore specifically filter for “instant booking” in the Airbnb portal. As a host, you also save time with this option because you don’t have to constantly check and process booking requests manually. You can automate a lot of things and still achieve a higher occupancy of your vacation rental.

If your guests still have questions before booking, they can simply send you a message.

With instant bookings you also increase your chances of being awarded as a “Superhost”. Statistically, accommodations that offer instant booking are 17% more likely to be booked and therefore rank higher on Airbnb results lists.

What is an Airbnb Superhost?

A “Superhost” is an experienced Airbnb host who has particularly good reviews and is a role model for other hosts. Airbnb guests like to book accommodations with Superhosts because they can be sure they will have a positive experience.

Requirements for Superhost status on Airbnb:

  1. At least 10 stays or at least 3 long-term stays (with a total of 100 days): patience is required here, because this requirement fulfills itself over time. The more apartments you have, the faster it goes.
  2. Response rate above 90%: Short responses via the app are quite sufficient. The important thing here is that you don’t wait too long.
  3. Cancellation rate below 1%: If you use a channel manager, your calendars and prices are always maintained. Therefore, as a renter, you should never have to make cancellations.
  4. Overall rating of 4.8 (in the past 365 days): Again, personal contact is the key to success. Guests tend to give better ratings if they have a good relationship with their host before and during their stay. Also, don’t go overboard with prices. This is because it also raises expectations of the accommodation.

Sync Airbnb calendar with a Channel Manager

If you want to use Airbnb in addition to other booking platforms, a Channel Manager like Smoobu can save you a lot of work. You can connect different portals like Airbnb, Booking.com, VRBO or smaller niche portals and synchronize them automatically via your booking calendar.

You can also easily adjust your prices with the Channel Manager. All you have to do is enter your base price. The service fees of the different booking portals are automatically added and sent to the individual portals. This way you have less work to do and you can still increase your sales.

The Channel Manager also helps you with instant bookings. Since the availabilities of your vacation rental are always up to date in the calendar, double bookings are prevented. Airbnb also offers the possibility to import iCal calendars. However, we recommend you to use a real Channel Manager with API interface. These are more reliable and, most importantly, sync in real-time.

Learn how to connect your Airbnb account with Smoobu here.

Increase your revenues with Airbnb

Airbnb is all about the personal touch. Think about what makes you and your vacation rental stand out from the competition and create your own brand. To do this, you’ll need a top description and high-quality photos, first and foremost.

Find the right nightly price

Finding the right rates is not easy. You need experience and time. Think about how you can keep your own time and costs as low as possible and still offer your guests the best possible service. That should be the lower end of the price range and you should never go below that. The high end is based on demand and competition. We recommend always starting at the bottom and then gradually increasing the price.

Minimum stay and cleaning fee are at least as important for optimization. If you’re not sure about this, you can make your prices dynamic.

Get positive Airbnb reviews

Many guests prefer the option of instant booking because it allows them to plan better and save time. When you offer this option, your accommodations appear higher in search results and are more likely to be booked. Thus, you optimize your ranking and stand out from the competition.

Surprise your guests upon arrival with a free bottle of water or local specialties (wine, fruit, chocolate). Always be friendly and helpful or respond quickly to questions. Even a fresh bouquet of fresh flowers will do wonders.

Win regular guests

This is how you provide your guests with the best possible experience and get positive feedback in return. Satisfied guests may even become regulars and return regularly. Or, at the very least, they’ll give you a good review and recommend you outside of Airbnb.

Be there for the guest. Offer them support and entertainment. You don’t have to spend time with them. Even an honest recommendation for a good restaurant or leisure activities in the vicinity is very well received.

How much does Airbnb cost for hosts?

Signing up and listing is free, but Airbnb charges its customers a service fee per booking. The company uses this to fund its online platform and services like support. Most importantly, Airbnb uses it to find guests through their marketing.

There are two models for collecting this commission: either the host shares the fee with the guest or the host pays the entire fee.

  1. Variant 1: Separate service fee

    In the first variant, most hosts pay 3% of the booking price. Airbnb hosts in Italy or with strict cancellation policies pay slightly more. Airbnb automatically retains this amount when paying out to the host. So it does not have to be paid extra.

    The guest pays a maximum of 14.2% surcharge on the booking price. The exact amount is displayed on the portal before payment.

  2. Variant 2: Host pays the entire service fee

    In the second variant, the Airbnb host pays the entire fee. This option is mandatory for hotels or hosts that use software (such as a Channel Manager) to manage their accommodation. The fee is between 14% to 16%, and can be higher in some non-European countries or if cancellation conditions are strict. This so-called host-only fee is the more transparent, cheaper pricing model and is preferred by the guest.

Conclusion: Reasons why you should list your vacation rental on Airbnb

  • Airbnb is worthwhile when renting out vacation homes and vacation apartments as an additional booking platform, because it allows you to address a new target group. Airbnb users often book on short notice and you avoid unnecessary vacancy of your accommodation.
  • The rating system shows your potential guests that you are a serious host, owner or landlord. You can also better assess whether guests are trustworthy and thus avoid problems.
  • If you also offer your vacation rental on other platforms like Booking.com, VRBO etc., it is best to use a Channel Manager to avoid double bookings. Smoobu is ideally suited for this as an Airbnb Preferred Software Partner.

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