Airbnb Accommodation Standards

In the past few months we have had a number of conversations with people considering putting their properties, or parts thereof, on one of the online accommodation websites like Airbnb, etc.

From these conversations it has become quite evident that there is a lack of understanding of what is deemed as “suitable accommodation” and “suitable hosting standards”, as expected from both the online portals and guests. It raises the question as to whether accommodations are at an acceptable quality level or not and this is largely governed by the reviews and feedback from guests. However, there are minimum standards which all hosts should meet in order to ensure a flow of repeat business.

Each online booking website has its own recommended standards and these are based on a wide range of factors such as:

  • price
  • value for money
  • cleanliness
  • communication
  • quality of furnishings
  • amenities and many more.

So it’s not just a case of putting your accommodation online, without having taken a serious look at why you are doing this and what effort you may need to make in order for guests to be attracted to it.

In life, first impressions are what often sets the tone for what follows. Especially when one is going on a holiday, paying well-earned money for decent accommodation of which they have a certain expectation, based on the information they have at hand. Anyone who has had the experience of arriving at a destination to find that the accommodation is nothing like described or expected can vouch for the disappointment one feels at the outset. It can be the ruination of the holiday for your guests and you as the owner will get the backlash when reviews are published.

Accommodations should, at a minimum, be clean, uncluttered and attractive. The more attractive and comfortable the décor is, the better response you will get. Amenities are a very key factor in attracting guests and if the basics are not in place it could be detrimental to future bookings. Free wi-fi is a given these days, next to things like a private entrance, Cable TV (DSTV) and in warmer climates, air-conditioning. If self-catering accommodation, cooking facilities are a must and in all cases, the basics like a “coffee station” should be in place. The list is endless but it is ultimately up to the host to decide on what extra’s to include in order to obtain the best reviews possible.

One thing is for certain – being a host for guests booking via the online websites is more than just a key-exchange and property run-through. Some people have taken the reigns and have become totally passionate about their role as a host and as a result constantly get good reviews, repeat bookings and an income stream that warrants all the little extra’s that make an impression. In other instances, home owners are using Property Management professionals to manage the end-to-end process on their behalf and in doing so, will be advised as to how best to set up their accommodation for maximum benefit and guest enjoyment. The personal touch cannot be underestimated and if you are in the slightest doubt as to whether your listed accommodation and amenities are up to scratch then you need to review this in order to take full advantage of the potential that exists


Online Rentals: Airbnb vs. vs. the rest

Online rentals: airbnb online rentals: booking dot comFor home owners who venture down the path of renting out rooms, cottages, lofts or any other section of their property, the first challenge they have is to decide which online rental portal to use. Whilst Airbnb is probably the most well-known one, there are many others that exist around the globe such as, TripAdvisor, Lekkeslaap and its English cousin Travelground, Afristay (SA’s own Airbnb equivalent), and so the list continues.

Whilst Airbnb is a company name, it has also become the de facto standard for the online rental “brand”. To explain this, I use the analogy from years back when Hoover was a brand of vacuum cleaner yet every vacuum cleaner was generically referred to as a “Hoover”. These days, Airbnb is the term used generically. An example of this is “I am going to Airbnb my property”, which does not necessarily mean that the Airbnb portal will be used versus the others that are available.

So how does one decide which is the right portal to use?

There are many criteria that one needs to consider when making this decision. These include:-

  • Strength in the local market as a source of guests, especially if you want international guests
  • Ease of use
  • Flexibility of the portal for information you want to provide on the accommodation
  • Rules and regulations
  • Commissions payable to the portal
  • Payment methods
  • Availability of support
  • Guest service and communication focus

Whilst there is a lot of common ground across the different competitors, there are some distinct differences which people base their decisions on. One of the key criteria which is often used is the visibility or generic interpretation of the brand and that is where Airbnb wins the race. They also get top marks for the low commission they charge on their bookings, then payment method and the flexibility of their portal. However, if they do not attract as many guests in a specific market segment or location then that choice may be disappointing for the home owner looking for that additional income.

The advice here is to do your research into your local market before deciding what to do. It often makes sense to use at least 2 portals and the ones that are generally top of mind are Airbnb and, specifically if you are looking to source overseas guests. The challenge here is that there is such a big differential in the commission they take that often people use the lower commission portals and then end up being disappointed in the results they get as far as bookings are concerned.

Irrespective of which portal you use, make sure that your choice is based on the above criteria and that you monitor it closely to ensure a regular flow of guests that meet the profile you wish to attract.


Short-term Accommodation Rental

At this time of the year, many holiday home owners are looking forward to retreating to their special place for a well-earned break. Whilst their objective is purely to enjoy one of their biggest life investments, there is always that ever-daunting list of “things-to-do” which encumbers their plan to have a “stress free & maintenance free” holiday. I will address this aspect in a future blog.

At the same time, others are considering how best to get some form of return on this investment as the overall cost of living in SA climbs out of proportion to many people’s disposable incomes. Whilst the initial plan to purchase a holiday home was primarily for use by family and friends, more and more people are relooking this approach, especially in areas where there is a large, seasonal tourism market.

Whilst long-term rentals are always an option, many people are put off by this as it will restrict their use of their own property as and when they get the chance to. Besides the fact that the long-term rental option does not bring in anywhere near the same rental as short-term rentals, there are many choices for them to consider. The question, however, is what is the right choice for you?

With the explosion of the online, short-term rental portals (i.e. Airbnb, etc.), a lot of confusion has been created by people not fully understanding whether these are suitable options for them or not. It is not simply a case of listing your property on the relevant portal and waiting for bookings. There is a fair amount of preparation required behind the scenes to ensure that the accommodation you are offering meets the standards of the guests you are trying to attract.

There is nothing worse than a traveller arriving at their chosen accommodation only to find it is way off the mark in terms of their expectations. All too often these expectations are based on the information listed, which can be very misleading. Then there is that dynamic called “wide-angle lens photography” which distorts the reality of the accommodation which turns out to be a lot smaller than expected.

A further consideration is how comfortable and appealing the accommodation is and what facilities you are putting in place for your guests. Now you may well ask why I refer to them as “guests”. If you are planning on renting out the accommodation on a regular basis then it becomes important that your view of the “tenant” is not that of a long-term tenant. Key to repeat and referral business are the reviews your property gets from each guest and what personal touches you include in the accommodation. As a large proportion of short-term rentals are self-catering, leaving a fruit basket or a bottle of wine for the guests goes a long way to creating a great first impression. Accommodation that is tastefully furnished, providing all the basic facilities that a traveller would expect, is more likely to get referrals than a basic room with tired linen and furniture, even if it does have a decent view.

Then of course you have the dilemma of how this is all going to be managed if you want to rent out your accommodation when you are not permanently based in the area. There are many considerations that one needs to think about and these cover everything from who will meet your guests, run through the accommodation facilities, provide the guests with knowledge of local activities, restaurants, hiking trails and the range of seasonal events. On-going guest communication is crucial before and during their stay and whilst the argument for “everyone can access this information online” is valid in many cases, there is nothing quite like the experience of that personal touch when you arrive at your chosen accommodation.

If you are planning on renting out your property on a short term basis using the portals of choice, it is imperative that your reviews are of the highest standard in order to broaden your reach of suitable guests. To achieve this, you must ensure that the end-to-end process from creation of the listing to post-occupation cleaning is effectively supervised to ensure that your accommodation builds up a reputation of being a preferred destination.