Evian is the Founder & CEO of Padlifter – the one-stop-shop for getting found more often, winning more bookings and making more money on Airbnb. He is the author of the best-selling book ‘The Definitive Step-by-Step Guide to Making Money on Airbnb’ and is an Airbnb Superhost that has hosted over 500 guests.
Most Vacation Rental hosts share the common objective of winning more bookings. Naturally, winning more bookings remains the holy grail of vacation rental hosting, right?
It may sound counter-intuitive but casting the net too wide in the myopic goal of winning additional bookings may often result in a few unexpected consequences. In your quest to please everyone…
… you may fail to deliver an optimal experience for anyone
… you may burden yourself with ever-changing adaptations to your home and hosting practices
… you may waste time explaining and re-explaining things in all your guest communications
These are but a few of the problems that frequently arise. So how do you go about addressing this challenge? Understand your different guest types.
Ethical Travelers. They are guided by ethical and/or environmental factors when organizing and undertaking their travel (e.g. environmentalists concerned about the carbon footprint of their travels)
Cultural Purists. Treat their travel as an opportunity to break free from their typical home lives and immerse themselves in a different culture (e.g. travelers that learn a new language and country history for an upcoming trip)
Obligation Meeters. Have their travel choices restructured by the need to meet some bounded ‘objective’ (e.g. business travelers travelling for a conference)
Social Capital Seekers. Influenced by their desire to impress friends and share travel experiences on social media (e.g. gap-year backpackers)
Reward Hunters. Luxury travelers that seek indulgent ‘must-have’ experiences (e.g. high-earning professionals that are members of luxury travel clubs
Simplicity Searchers. Appreciate ease and transparency in their travel planning and holiday-making (e.g. active seniors)
This list of tribes is far from exhaustive and could be broken down many times further into sub-tribes. Nonetheless, it illuminates the importance of thinking about your target guests and the specific hosting practices that will simplify your life, enhance their experience and sustainably win you additional bookings.
Below are 10 examples of hosting disciplines that you should adapt to reflect your target guest types.
1. Create a space that will appeal to your target guests
Ensure that you furnish your home with design, décor and amenities that are most likely to appeal to your target guests. For luxury travelers this may be 3000 Thread Count Egyptian Cotton bed sheets. For gap-year travelers this may be a smart TV connected to Netflix. The new Airbnb Collections filter (for families and business travelers) reflects the growing importance of this.
2. Protect your property
Understanding your target guests should influence whether you need to remove or lock-up any valuables from your home and the places guests have access to. It will also influence whether you replace expensive items with cheaper alternatives that are of lesser concern if damaged or broken. And it may make you more selective when screening guests to identify ‘high-risk’ booking requests.
3. Adapting your listing
Ensure that you show photos and use language that will resonate best with your target guests. Business travelers will want to see pictures of a nice workspace and work-friendly amenities, whilst cultural purists will want to know that they are only a 5-minute walk from the national art gallery.
4. Guest communications
Remember that different people have different communication preferences: Gen-Y and millennials have a preference for short, personalized and periodic text messages via digital platforms like the Airbnb app or text messages. Baby boomers and Gen-Xers often prefer more detailed and upfront communications via email.
Remain conscious of key events and drawcards for your city. The Annual Jewlery Convention and Annual Comic Book Fest are going to attract different guest types at different times of the year. If your home caters towards any of these particular travelers, make sure that your pricing reflects the increased demand that will entitle you to charge more at these times of the year.
6. The Check-In Process
Hosts have a variety of options for checking-in guests. Some like to meet their guests in person. Others offer self check-in options such as keyless door locks with codes that are sent prior to check-in. Each option will appeal more and less to different types of guests. Similarly, setting a narrow check-in window may prove to be a limitation and disincentive for some travelers. It is important to pause and think about who you are trying to attract and what their check-in requirements and preferences may be.
7. Recognize the safety and security concerns of guests
Traveling necessitates leaving one’s comfort zone and entering a new and unfamiliar place. For some travelers this is more of an issue than for others. Pre-empt any foreseeable concerns (e.g. is the neighborhood safe, how should I get around, etc.) and mitigate these concerns with proactive recommendations, tips and advice.
8. Providing little touches
Many hosts offer small gifts for staying at their place. These are often the little perks that get a host over the 5-star review line. Ensure you think about what will please your guests. Arriving to a welcome basket of fresh fruit and delicatessen cheeses will be appealing to luxury travelers; but not as much as sodas, snacks and ramen noodles might be to backpackers and students.
9. Configure your booking settings
Ensure that your booking and availability settings reflect the type of travelers that typically stay at your place. Having a 5-night minimum stay works well if you typically get families coming from overseas on their two-week vacation, but not so well if you typically get business travelers in town for their one-day of meetings.
10. Create a Guidebook
Creating a guidebook provides an opportunity for hosts to demonstrate that they have taken the time to think about how to create the best possible experience for their guests. They explain how to make the most of the home as well as surrounding area so that guests are left feeling like VIPs before, throughout and after their trip. Ensure that you explain home features and amenities appropriately and include places most likely to be of interest, relevance and within budget of your target guests.
Taking the time to understand your different guest types will pay its dividends in a virtuous cycle of happier guests, better reviews, additional bookings and increased profitability.