How To Win Bookings From Airbnb
We all know that lack of regulation to ensure fair competition has generated the frustration that traditional accommodation providers are feeling since Airbnb appeared on the market.
Hoteliers can’t technically blame Airbnb hosts as they are driven by consumer-driven demand.
We also can’t blame consumers because they are choosing from the alternatives available to them that meet their requirements.
Airbnb was taking the industry by storm before Covid, but the change in traveller sentiment during the pandemic has driven more consumers to consider booking via their site than before.
So, the key to winning the Airbnb battle is in understanding the consumer preferences that push them in that direction in the first place.
Before Covid, I would have recommended analysing the competition to see what they are offering, but by focusing on what the guest wants, you can begin to shortlist the features, amenities or installations that tick those “essential requirement boxes”, and make sure they are visible in all your marketing efforts.
Why do travellers use Airbnb?
Right now, the desire to have privacy and avoid contact with other people is top of the list. Independent entrances, host-less check-ins/outs, private kitchens, pools, and patios are all influencing the choice.
Just like with any other competitor, your job is to stand out from the crowd.
Take a look at the following list to see where you can market your competitive advantage.
Private entrance and common areas
If you happen to have independent villas or cabins at your property, re-visit your website and booking engine to see what order your room types currently appear in. As the larger options tend to be more expensive, they are usually lower down on the list. If that is the case for you, reshuffle them and update the description so that key phrases like “private entrance”, “private parking”, “kitchenette”, “private terrace” etc are all visible in the first two lines.
If you don’t have any independent lodging, do the same reshuffle with your largest suites so that they come up first. That way you can showcase the value of a private living room, or included room service for example.
Private use of facilities
If you have a restaurant or spa, or a gym or common areas, create some new text that explains how they are functioning for guests at this time. Highlight the benefit of having everything on site. Or maybe you can offer private transfer to a local restaurant that has socially distanced facilities so that the guests know they can safely visit your dining recommendation during their stay.
Create a full buy-out package price to book the whole property. It is highly expected that family get togethers or multi-generational trips will become popular as we see travel begin to recover so get in early and sell the added benefits of booking your hotel or lodge over a host-less Airbnb.
No cleaning fees
There are some people who believe that Airbnb options are cheaper than formal lodgings. Of course, this can sometimes be the case, but hidden fees and/or additional fees do not offer transparency. Certainty, peace of mind and trust is what the post-Covid traveller wants. In fact, they may not travel without it.
Highlight the fact that your published prices are the final prices. Write in there “no additional fees”, or “no cleaning fees”, and at the same time, add in the detail of you enhanced hygiene and cleaning protocol. You can quickly create an attractive protocol that is available for perusal or download using the free version of Canva.com. Check out this blog to find out more.
No-fee cancellation policy
You have more than likely already realised that, right now, you cannot be competitive without a no-fee cancellation policy. Airbnb’s cancellation policies have been known to be quite rigid, so use this to your advantage and make sure the detail is upfront and central on your website and booking engine.
Safety and security
There is something quite anonymous about Airbnb properties and while this appeals to some, it doesn’t to others purely because of the safety issue. Check that your descriptions and listings make mention of the security features and installations at your hotel. This could be as simple as mentioning your security camera system, or as specific as showing images of your child’s pool, or the gated area around the deeper pool for example.
Consistent high-speed Wifi
Even the most earnest nature lovers who desire silence and disconnection want to check in with family or post a photo. High-speed wifi is almost as essential as hot running water. While it is not going to gain you that competitive advantage on its own, it should definitely be in the first couple of lines of all your descriptions and listings. Check on that today.
One of the biggest ironies of the name “Airbnb” is the fact that the second “b” is absent in most properties listed on their site. Shout loud about yours.
Local products, high quality, made to order, room service – whatever it is that your past guests have loved, use it in all your marketing. Add photos of your scrumptious breakfasts not just in your general gallery but in the photos of your rooms too. It is an extremely persuasive marketing tool that definitely gives you a competitive advantage over most Airbnb options.
Packages that include food and/or spa
On the same note as above, if you have cross-selling options such as a café, restaurant or spa, create packages that combine something of everything to take the stress out of onsite decisions. Highlight private dining experiences, or private wine tastings that can be done alone while following a list for example, or a spa session with full, private use of the sauna and pool.
Personalisation and discounts for repeat customers
With the pivot to domestic comes the opportunity to really get to know your customers better than ever. A targeted email marketing strategy gives you the chance not only to find out more about your national clients, but also to nurture them, allowing you to personalise your offer. Personalisation is the new buzz word when it comes to what travellers are looking for right now. By consistently offering value you build a relationship, trust and ultimately ambassadors for your brand. Learn more about the GROWcovery email marketing strategy here to turn your guests into loyal, repeat customers.
If you still need some convincing, take a moment to read the incredible case study from Antbear Lodge in South Africa where the owner Andrew, took his email list from 0 to 12,000 in 4 months by using a targeted email marketing strategy.
Baggage storage & early check in
Due to the host-less anonymity of most Airbnb properties, there is usually no chance to leave your luggage before your check-in time. Talk about this option that you offer, as well as your early check-in policy. This can be an Airbnb dealbreaker if the trip is a short one. We all want to maximise out time without lugging our luggage around, right?
If your property has installations and facilities for disabled travellers, also make sure this is mentioned in your descriptions and listings. Not many Airbnb properties are compliant with national disability acts for example.
Update your Google My Business listing regularly with new photos or some fresh text. Google loves that you do this, but also, holiday rentals are not considered to be a business entity by Google, so they do not come up when someone searches for accommodation. And always, always, respond to any reviews that come in via Google.
Behind the scenes
Why not get creative and talk about the staff at your property and how they depend on the income from their jobs to support their families. This can be told in a friendly, upbeat way with a behind-the-scenes style video or photo series on social. We all love a good story, and we all seek to feel connected to something. This is a great way to let your guests in to see more about you, your ethos and what their choice to stay with you means to you, your staff, and your community.
This is something that Airbnb properties can never compete with.
It also gives you some great content for the nurture series of your targeted email marketing strategy as mentioned above.
Get in on the wellness trend
I recently read about “Waldeinsamkeit” making a comeback. This cherished forest tradition originated in Germany and is currently enjoying post-pandemic renaissance according to this BBC article.
“Type waldeinsamkeit into Google Translate and the immediate result – "solitude of the forest" – does little to spell out its true meaning: the enlightened, sublime feeling that can come from being alone in the woods.”
Offer your own waldeinsamkeit nourishment by creating a hand-picked “insider” route in a local forest or place of beauty. Just another marketing tool this may be, but it will hit the spot for those looking for wellness escapes and for re-connection with nature.
One hotel I work with in southern Chile has a wonderful 4-hectare park. They sell a unique “forest therapy” activity based on the Japanese concept of Shinrin-Yoku. This involves “bathing yourself in the forest” allowing you to reconnect with nature and cleanse your soul. Sound a thousand times better than just saying “you can go for a walk in our forest”, right?
So, we are getting to the end now.
You might not be able to make all of the above work for you, but hopefully some of the ideas have sparked some inspiration.
One last thought…. Do check your website.
It the customer experience as good as it can possibly be? Do you offer seamless online bookings? Can the user navigate the research and booking process as easily as they could if they were on an OTA site? Take some time to check the mobile version, ideally on more than one mobile phone.
To check that your website is as Covid-friendly from a customer perspective as possible, click here to access my Homepage Essential Features 2021 Review. This 10-minute video highlights the essentials that today’s traveller expects to find and goes over the homepages of a lodge in South Africa, a hostel in Honduras, a hotel in England and a tourism complex in Chile.
That's it from me for today! I will be back soon with more updates and info created with you - small, independent, hotel, lodge, b&b and hostel owners in mind.
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Oh, and one last thing.... if you are interested in a short course that takes you through each step to get your domestic-focused email marketing system up and running, jump on the wait list here and I will be in touch with some free snippets soon.