Since it was founded in 2008, Airbnb has rapidly grown to host more than 5 million lodging listings in 81,000 cities and 191 countries. At the end of 2017, Airbnb has facilitated over 300 million check-ins, and in 2017, Airbnb made $93 million in profits on $2.6 billion in revenues.
In late 2016, Airbnb expanded its service offerings, allowing its users to go beyond just booking places to stay by giving them the option to also book “experiences” in the places that they visit. These “experiences” can range from tame activities such as cooking classes and art walks, to more avant-garde activities like graffiti workshops, or poetry classes in the home of Harlem Renaissance poet Mr. Langston Hughes in New York.
And small businesses should take note: If you haven’t thought about creating an Airbnb experience for your business, you are losing out on what could potentially be a great income stream.
Selma Studer, 34, who runs a company that offers “gong baths,” a type of meditation induced by the sound of a gong, added her company’s services to the Airbnb platform in June 2018. She has exerienced an uptick in business since she added the business due to bookings from the Airbnb platform. Why did Studer join the platform to begin with? She says, “I see it as a way to test and offer the five-star experience of my product.”
Studer notes that she tailors the gong baths a bit differently for the typically out-of-town guests who find her services through the Airbnb platform than for her regular customers. “It’s more personal than the group gong baths I go for in the regular business, so I add all the bells and whistles, like baking in time at the end to relax and chat and connect over tea and cookies,” she says.
Studer says of the Airbnb Experience platform, “It’s a really useful lead generation tool but also the booking and calendar system make it really easy to monetize the experience from the platform in a hassle free way.”
Adding your business to the Airbnb platform is easy: a few clicks, a few photos, a description, and you’re onboarded.
Because of its size and popularity, there may be competition on Airbnb from companies offering similar products and services to yours. In New York alone, there are dozens of photographers offering photo tours of the city, for example.
Some general ways to make your business standout from the crowd include:
- Make sure you use high-quality photographs of your product or service.
- Write strong copy to explain what experiences you are offering.
- Respond to inquiries quickly through the Airbnb platform.
- Read Airbnb’s advice on how make the most out of experiences for your business.
When it comes to bookings, Airbnb says there are 3 tips to make sure you get more through their site:
- Start with a lower introductory price. This might mean that even though you value your time at say $50 per person per hour, it might be necessary to reduce it to $30 per person per hour to get those initial customers and the positive reviews they’ll bring with them.
- Make sure you keep your calendar optimized. The site states that most bookings occur on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, so keep these days available if you want bookings.
- Don’t set your cut-off times too early. Airbnb notes that 40% of bookings occur within a week of the experience happening, and 20% occur within two days of the experience happening. Setting cut-off times too early may mean missing out on customers looking for last-minute experiences.
As a small business owner, you should encourage your users who come to your business through Airbnb to review your services. Airbnb says, “Setting expectations has helped many hosts find success. This can set you up for more 5-star reviews, and the higher your reviews, the more likely your guests will book.” Studer adds, “I’m not 100% sure how their algorithm works, but it’s really important to get some good reviews early on.”
“Airbnb are also great about creating communities within communities,” Studer says. “They’ve really fostered a sense of connection among fellow hosts for example by hosting a networking reception for us at their headquarters and they also maintain an active Facebook group.”
She concludes, “It’s a virtuous cycle that I hope will be fruitful for my business as well as for the businesses of my peers.”