Airbnb hosts are bracing for an unpredictable summer

Airbnb hosts are bracing for an unpredictable summer

For hosts on Airbnb and other websites where people book short-term rentals, last summer marked the beginning of a new normal.

Although there is still a glut of accommodations after the recent Airbnb gold rush, many travelers still choose for short-term rentals.

In the run-up to summer 2024, hosts will need to differentiate themselves from other listings in their local locations. The growing unpredictability of passengers themselves is a source of further stress; hosts report that guests are scheduling trips more last-minute than in previous years.

According to analytics website AirDNA, as of March, there were 1.57 million listings on Airbnb and Vrbo nationwide, a 12.3% rise even over the same period previous year. Although March 2023 saw a 4% decrease from 2022, the average occupancy for hosts—the number of nights they are booked each month—improved somewhat by 2% over the previous year.

Hosts are using a variety of techniques to increase revenue while safeguarding their margins.

Some hosts are using social media to entice summer visitors; some are exchanging complimentary trips for promotional images and engaging local influencers to record video evaluations of their facilities. Professional hosts, defined by AirDNA as those with more than 20 listings, want to use their resources and brands to book directly with guests, avoiding the costs imposed by the big booking platforms.

Emily Burke is a host in Tulsa, Oklahoma, who oversees forty listings. “If I could, I would want them all to be direct bookings,” Burke stated.

Big-time hosts turn to direct booking, but it comes with risks

When a visitor makes their reservation directly with a property rather than via a large booking service like Airbnb, VRBO, or another, it is known as direct booking.

Rick Kenworthy, an Arizona host, said he has prioritized direct booking. Kenworthy oversees 91 listings in the Scottsdale region, which is close to Phoenix.

According to Kenworthy, he boosted the proportion of direct bookings to 25% in the first quarter of 2024 from 10% in the same time the previous year. This increase, he claimed, will result in an additional $500,000 in income. If visitors make direct reservations, Kenworthy will deduct 5% from the price, reducing a $350-per-night stay to $330.

Direct reservations have the benefit of cheaper costs for both parties, which enables hosts to keep all profits while offering visitors a lower nightly rate.

Kenworthy has employed a dual approach. First, he used Wi-Fi capture technology—which saves emails when visitors log in—to increase the size of his property-management company’s email distribution list. Next, he sends out emails with exclusive deals and links to the direct booking website. Secondly, in an effort to get clients to become more used to his homes, he has made investments in branded products like pens and coffee mugs.

He said, “We’re not force-feeding anybody,” to Business Insider. “But at the end of the day, it comes down to dollars and cents.”

However, some hosts find the idea of doing it alone to be too intimidating. They could be hesitant to abandon Airbnb, VRBO, Expedia, and other platforms because to the insurance protection provided by those companies as well as the publicity resulting from their sizable user base of eager travelers.

Ryan Villines, a host from Missouri and volunteer with Airbnb as a community leader in his area, feels that there is more danger involved in direct booking than benefit.

Hosts who accept direct reservations are in charge of gathering the necessary documentation for background checks and payment details; they also lack the extra protection that the larger platforms provide.

“There’s some protection if something goes wrong or someone sets your house on fire,” said Villines, the manager of four properties close to the well-liked Lake of the Ozarks tourist spot. “If you’re doing direct booking, that’s super risky.”

Hosts turn to influencers to tour their properties on social media

Burke, a Tulsa-based host with 40 listings, observed that visitors are increasingly booking last-minute stays, which may be problematic for hosts who depend on their income.

Burke estimates that by the end of May, her occupancy rate will be about 58%, but only a few weeks ago, she was only reserved for 30% of the nights in May.

She’s started collaborating with a local influencer who has 50,000 followers in an attempt to draw in more bookings overall. They have already recorded one of Burke’s short-term rental apartments next to the Gathering Place, a well-liked park in Tulsa, and they want to shoot another one close to Cherry Street, a “hip shopping district.”

“Those are location, location, location, both of them. So that people are aware that they can book stays in gorgeous residences and in very fascinating places with our company,” Burke added.

Burke stated that comparable digital marketing firms cost $1,000 per month and still need Burke to do a large portion of the editing, publishing, and content planning. However, Burke declined to reveal the amount she is paying the influencer to highlight her businesses.

“I’m not into that,” Burke remarked. “I’m not an editor of videos. My fan base isn’t that large.”

The host Villines, who owns four villas on the Lake of the Ozarks, claimed he had negotiated with influencers to exchange free stays at his listings for content packages.

Villines stated that he may utilize the nights that aren’t booked for content exchanges to enhance his marketing, even if he anticipates a 10% decrease in summer reservations from the previous year.

In exchange for up to 50 professional images he can use for the property’s Airbnb profile or a well-composed marketing film that may otherwise cost $500 to $1,500, he has offered two- or three-night stays to content creators who have contacted him through Airbnb.


“Because I’m down in numbers, I have more availability for nights that I could swap services,” he stated.
Burke said that influencers may contribute in the promotion of direct booking.

Burke requests that if the influencer does publish a link to one of her residences, it should take users to her company website rather than the Airbnb listing.

Burke expressed her hope that Tulsans who are motivated by the influencer will book with her in order to avoid paying fees.

“My approach is that she’s really focused on bringing guests to our houses that are booking directly,” she stated.

The parent business of Insider Inc., Axel Springer, has invested in Airbnb.

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