Shortly after its emergence in 2008, AirBnB has completely disrupted the once-almighty hotel industry. Because it can now be found in 192 countries, finding affordable yet wonderful lodgings in just about any major city has never been easier. With a total of over 2,000,000 (and growing) listings throughout the world, many travelers, especially the perpetually wanderlust-y millennials, are spoiled for choice.
If you are one of the many OFW’s or Aussie nationals who invested in a property in the Philippines and are looking to turn it into an AirBnB that pays for itself and then some, you certainly have your work cut out for you. While the staggering number of listings is great for consumers, it also makes competition among AirBnB hosts particularly fierce.
So, how can you make YOUR AirBnB stand out among the others (and hopefully have the proceeds from it pay for your dream vacation in the Maldives)? Here’s a quick guide:
1. Feature only high-quality photos.
These will form your guests’ first impressions of your space, so make your photos Instagram-worthy. Prior to photographing the space, clean it up from top to bottom, color-coordinate the beddings and curtains, rearrange the furniture, and adjust the lighting. If you aren’t exactly ace at using a camera, you can ask one of your friends to help. Hint: Think of that one friend whose breathtaking photos of his or her last travel destination constantly appear on your feed.
You can also check if you are eligible for AirBnB’s free photography services. Not only will they make your apartment or condo stand out on the results page, but that little AirBnB watermark on each photo also automatically boosts your listing’s SEO. Sweet.
2. Offer competitive rates.
Consider the area where your AirBnB is located. Is it smack dab in the middle of the Ayala Business Center, or is it a little farther along in one of Makati’s smaller side streets? Evidently, a plush condominium unit in the former can command an exponentially bigger rate than a house in the latter.
Check the other AirBnB listings in your area to get a better idea of a workable rate, or if you can’t find any, do a little market research in your neighborhood (e.g., who usually books a room here, for what purpose, etc.).
You can then choose to price your listing a little lower than average (emphasis on the “little,” you are here to make money, after all) or pricing it a little higher to hint at its additional value-for-money aspects, such as increased security or bigger floor area. Another way to make your listing more competitive, price-wise, is to offer weekly or monthly discounts via a percentage off the total rent.
3. Update your calendar constantly.
Constant updates to your calendar not only help you keep track of bookings, but it also reveals how active you are to AirBnB and they’ll consequently boost your ranking on the search page.
You can also take things further by optimizing your calendar. This means updating it not just to reflect current bookings but also to highlight certain events that will happen in your area in the near future. If your place is close to SM Mall of Asia, for example, you can highlight the annual Pyrotechnics/Fireworks Olympics during the months of February and March and thus attract more interested parties. (Though with Duterte as the current president, you might want to check if that event is still pushing through.)
And since we’re on the topic of your calendar, never ever cancel on a confirmed booking unless there are extenuating circumstances. What counts as a valid excuse for canceling on a booking? A super typhoon flooding your property and requiring the installation of new floorboards is one, while a fire breaking out and rendering a similar kind of damage is another. Meanwhile, your boyfriend or girlfriend wanting to use your condo for a weekend with their friends does not count as a valid excuse in any way.
If you really must set aside time on the property for your personal use, block it out on your calendar once you’ve confirmed the dates. This not only avoids confusion and frustration among your guests, but it also keeps your account active, updated, and search engine-optimized to boot.
4. Respond to inquiries ASAP.
As with the constant calendar updates, speedy replies to guest inquiries also indicates to AirBnB your readiness and ability to host guests. Being an attentive host also prevents your listing from getting downgraded. (Yep, lazy hosts are penalized by AirBnB just as much as hardworking ones are rewarded.)
Plus, let’s face it, how can you prevent missing any bookings if you’re seldom around to answer inquiries? You don’t have to be online 24/7, but you do need to set aside a regular time each day for checking any inquiries and addressing them as needed.
5. Play up your property’s main advantages.
If your guests wanted a boring, run-of-the-mill room, they would have booked at a boring, run-off-the-mill hotel. Apart from the competitive rates, many people book on AirBnB since they want to experience what it’s like to live as a local abroad, albeit in a more comfortable sense.
Is your property near the famed Maginhawa Street in Quezon City where foodies like to converge on weekends? Are there plenty of gyms and fitness centers nearby for the traveler who likes to keep fit even on vacation? (Pro-tip: If your AirBnB is in an area like this, you can also offer your guests a free pass to your gym of choice and thus increase your chances of getting that five-star review.) Can your guests get to a convention center or a multinational company’s headquarters from your AirBnB simply by crossing the street? Bottomline: figure out what makes your neighborhood strategic, and capitalize on it. Then, sit back and watch the number of your property’s bookings increase by the day.
6. Be flexible about your terms.
Having a constant stream of guests that only stay for a night each might seem like a hassle since you’d have to arrange for clean-up whenever they check out, but setting your minimum stay duration to one night actually gets your listing as many views as possible. And the more views it gets, the more bookings you can potentially secure for your listing.
Being flexible about check-in and check-out times also have an impact on a guest’s decision to book your place. Traveling sometimes results in unforeseen transportation delays, so anyone would prefer not to worry about getting locked out of their rented apartment or room if they happen to arrive later than expected.
7. Collect (great) reviews.
Not even the nicest photographs or the most sophisticated SEO methods can help you if your guests keep leaving you lackluster reviews. Reviews, particularly five-star ones, are the lifeblood of any high-profit AirBnB. If you manage to get a five-star rating on 80% of your reviews, you qualify for Superhost status. It’s pretty much the gold standard for AirBnB hosts and just about ensures a steady stream of bookings (cha-ching!).
If your place has less-than-stellar reviews at the beginning, review each one and immediately work on the factors that you can fix. Leaky faucet in the bathroom? Get a new one installed. Dusty surfaces and dirty floors? Clean, clean, and then clean some more (more on this in the next item).
Once you’ve addressed all the aforementioned concerns, you can work on getting those smashing reviews by carrying out the next three steps on this list.
8. Keep it clean.
Nothing lifts the spirits of a tired traveler more than coming home to a meticulously cleaned room or apartment. No matter how close the bookings for your AirBnB might be, always allot time for a thorough cleaning of your space after each guest departs from it.
Now, people tend to have varying standards for cleanliness. A throw pillow out of place or a few stacked dishes on the sink might not make you squirm, but to be on the safe side, always assume that your guests are the sort who prefer things to be spic and span.
Unsure of where to start? Scrub out the shower, sink (both in the bathroom and in the kitchen, please), toilet, and floors since these are the most frequently-used places in any lodging. I would then recommend changing up the bedsheets, curtains, and towels to further freshen up the place, especially if your previous guest stayed at your place for more than a week. You may also want to refrain from bringing pets into your AirBnB lest they shed fur or droppings (!) all over the place.
9. Manage guest expectations.
If there are any challenges or eccentricities in your place (e.g., hall lights that tend to flicker, a fair number of stairs that guests need to use to get to your apartment, etc.), be sure to include them in your description. Your place doesn’t have to be perfect to attract bookings, but your guests do need to know what they are getting into so that they can prepare.
A great strategy for being honest about your apartment or condo’s quirks is following up a not-so-encouraging revelation with a line that makes up for it, such as “There are plenty of stairs in our building, but we’ll have someone help you carry your bags up to the unit when you arrive.”
10. Under-promise and over-deliver.
In line with the previous statement, it would also be wise to give your guests well-thought of yet unexpected little extras during their stay. Laying out a dozen breakfast pastries on the kitchen table for guests arriving early or leaving a bottle of red wine on the countertop with a couple of wine glasses for customers checking in at night are both fine examples of thoughtful surprises that could compel your clients to leave you glowing reviews (and thus boost your ranking on the search page).
Better yet, try injecting a bit of local flavor into your guest’s experience. If it’s their first time in Cebu, for instance, ask them if they like dried mangoes. If they say yes, you can leave a few boxes of Cebu’s finest chocolate-covered mangoes on the kitchenette of your AirBnB before they arrive.