According to a recent Buzzfeed article, Airbnb’s “mega hosts” are putting the company in danger of becoming “just another travel booking site.” “Mega hosts” is a new term referring to individuals who have more than 100 vacation rentals on a listing site. Often times these listings are located within the same complex or are bundled in a specific location. Since Airbnb’s branding emphasizes unique experiences and “living like a local,” some industry experts are beginning to question Airbnb’s direction and overall brand.
“There’s a message they’re trying to convey — home sharing, traveling like a local, experience local culture, stay in a private home — but actually a growing percent of listings are not really someone’s home. It’s a condo that is one of 1,000 others that look the same and are run by a hotel-like property management company with a front desk check-in,” writes Douglas Quinby, a senior vice president at travel researcher at Phocuswright.
If Phocuswright’s estimates that US vacation rental property managers using Airbnb are now closer to 50% vs. 10% in 2012, perhaps Airbnb’s incorporation of “mega hosts” is wise. In fact, the same study shows that vacation rentals offering hotel-grade consistency are increasing in demand by travelers. However, Airbnb and other property listings sites will always differentiate themselves by leveraging the personalities of their owners and supporting vacation rentals.
As Buzzfeed points out, “the company still likes to describe itself as a marketplace for tourists to get cozy in real people’s homes — ‘Don’t go there. Live there’, it urges starry-eyed travelers.” Yet, in this rapidly expanding segment of vacation rentals, it makes sense that Airbnb is catering to guests who are not as interested in doing things like interacting with their hosts. Clients today often want a more “hotel-like” experience where they can come and go as they please during their trip.
In Phocuswright’s 2015 study, 1 in 3 U.S. travelers used non-hotel lodging. Vacation rentals are increasingly growing in popularity.
When you’re able to add the hotel experience into a vacation rental by offering more services and convenience to guests, there is an opportunity to make private accommodations more mainstream. Safety and cleanliness have always have been, a huge concern for travelers. Although many vacation rental owners struggle to consistently provide these assurances, “mega hosts” or even homeowners leveraging full-service property management are actually ahead of the curve in meeting these new market demands. For instance, 99% of TurnKey’s guests rate the clean as 4 or 5 stars.
Travelers are officially seeking out vacation rentals over hotels because they want all the comforts of home while they are away, but without all the work. However, people enjoy the stability and convenience of hotels. They know exactly what to expect, and overall it’s a fairly frictionless experience. However, in LendEDU’s recent survey, 37% respondents indicated that Airbnb was the “cheaper, preferred option” when compared to hotels. It is growing more and more obvious we’re seeing a unique inflection point in the hospitality industry where vacation rentals are preferred, but the inconsistencies are no longer tolerated.
Airbnb might be tweaking their position in the market, but it is not necessarily a deviating from consumer preferences – it’s actually the contrary. Phocuswright’s recent study found most travelers don’t know or care if the home is managed by an owner vs. a vacation rental property manager. Also, 50% of Airbnb customers have rented a home knowing the host wouldn’t be on-site while only 7% indicated an interest in interacting with local hosts as their reason for choosing a vacation rental.
Ultimately, travelers want consistency while enjoying a unique home. That means if you’re a “mega host” or leveraging a full-service property manager, like TurnKey Vacation Rentals, you’re ahead of the curve when it comes to traveler demands. Since these types of homeowners run their home like a business investment, consistency is key. While each home is unique, the entire guest experience is maintained from start to finish. Guests stay in desirable neighborhoods near local attractions and can immerse themselves in the local culture while never having to worry about awkward key exchanges with the host, running low on toiletries, or that their rental won’t be clean, etc.
Although these “mega hosts” and property managers may be impacting Airbnb’s past branding, TurnKey is working to provide guests with the exact experience they want.