EP120: This Week in the World of Airbnb

EP120: This Week in the World of Airbnb


There is plenty of news to discuss this week in the world of Airbnb and Jasper is joined by Nicole Williams who is the Vince President of Strategic Partnerships at Hostfully!

The biggest piece of news is that Chip Conley, Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy for Airbnb, has decided to step down. Jasper and Nicole discuss some reasons behind his decision and what it means to Airbnb.

Next is an article in the New York Times that mentions Jasper followed by an article regarding the tough regulations in Santa Monica CA. Enjoy the episode!

Some of the topics covered:

Chip Conley’s decision to step down

  • Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy for Airbnb
  • Will remain an advisor to the company
  • His ‘baby’ was Airbnb Trips which recently launched

Article: The Guide to Being an Airbnb Superhost (New York Times)

  • Tips and Strategies
  • Jasper is mentioned!
  • Only 7% of hosts are ‘Superhosts’
  • The importance of honesty – Even about the bad stuff
  • Important to solve problems quickly
  • Check in after first night
  • Much more!

Article: Public registration required for homeowners providing short term rentals (Santa Monica)

  • Santa Monica brought in 51 million USB from hotel taxes ( 1.8 million from Airbnb)
  • Tough regulations
  • How Airbnb is being blamed for the rising real estate prices

 Resources mentioned

Article #1: The Guide to Being an Airbnb Superhost (New York Times): www.nytimes.com/2017/01/11/technology/personaltech/the-guide-to-being-an-airbnb-superhost.html

Article #2: Public registration required for homeowners providing short term rentals: smdp.com/home-share-rules/159275

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Twitter: @GetPaidForUrPad

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Facebook: www.facebook.com/getpaidforyourpad

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Complete Transcript for Get Paid for Your Pad Episode 120

Jasper:

Welcome to Get Paid For Your Pad, the definitive show on Airbnb hosting, featuring the best advice on how to maximize profits from your Airbnb listing, as well as real-life experiences from Airbnb hosts all over the world. Welcome.

 

Jasper:

This episode is brought to you by Hostfully, a company that helps you make beautiful guidebooks for your listing. Make your own at hostfully.com/pad, and a special for Get Paid For Your Pad listeners, you’ll get a free guidebook consultation after you make your guidebook.

Welcome, everybody, to this week’s news episodes. We’re going to discuss everything that’s been happening in the world of Airbnb in the last week. And, today, I’m honored to have as a guest on the show, Nicole Williams, who’s the Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at Hostfully. So, Nicole, welcome to the show.

Nicole:

Thanks so much, Jasper. I’m excited to be talking with you this morning…or this afternoon.

Jasper:

Absolutely. And I understand you are an Airbnb host, yourself.

Nicole:

Yes. About four-and-a-half years, I have been hosting through a remote home, yes.

Jasper:

Awesome. Great. And how’s that been going?

Nicole:

Great. We’ve had high occupancy and we’ve met wonderful people. It’s been a great experience for us. The home is local, so we’re able to pop in here and there, and sometimes meet the guests. And it’s been a great experience.

Jasper:

Very cool. Well, let’s jump right into the most important news stories of this week. And I think there’s one story that really stands out, because Airbnb’s Chip Conley, the Global Head of Hospitality and Strategy, has decided to step down. And I think he’s still going to be involved with Airbnb, but in a much smaller role.

Nicole:

Right. It sounds like he’s going to be an advisor, that he’s left his footprint on Airbnb and will always be a part of it, is what it sounds like. You know, I guess not so surprising. They just did this huge launch at Airbnb Open, which, you probably saw him speak there, as well. He said Trips was his baby, he was very excited to launch it, he’d been working hard on the project for many years, and yeah, he’s kind of a thought leader in the industry. It’s not surprising that he wants to, you know, pull back a little and not have this be a 70-hour-a-week position. Were you surprised?

Jasper:

I was kind of a little bit surprised because, for me, Chip is such a big part of Airbnb. I think, in 2013, when he started his role, Airbnb, for the first time, realized that they weren’t really a technology platform, their product wasn’t a platform, but it was more a hospitality, right. So, they realized that ‘hosts’ is the product of Airbnb, and that’s why they hired Chip Conley, to work on educating hosts and having more of that hospitality as the focus.

And, you know, I’ve met him several times. I’ve actually interviewed him on this podcast in episode 24, and that’s almost two years ago. Yeah, I didn’t really think about it, but it’s just, to me, it seems like a big loss for Airbnb.

Nicole:

Yeah, I mean, if he was stepping away completely, I think it would be. And looking at the hosts’ and the guests’ perspective, and Airbnb, yeah, maybe it will be tough for them. Putting yourself into his shoes and seeing what he’s done, you know, he’s an author, he’s written, he’s had four books. I looked on Twitter; he’s been in Sweden, speaking at the Nordic Business Forum this past weekend about disruption and how to keep the momentum going.

Yeah, at this event, they had Al Gore, Arianna Huffington, Richard Branson, so I see him thinking of himself as a thought leader in this space. He’s also on a few Board of Directors. So, to do all of that, it’s hard to do a big job at Airbnb and hold that title and do it successfully. I mean, he has been successful, spending as much time as he has there, but, you know, he’s not gone. He’s going to be an advisor and I’m sure he’s vested in the company, has an interest there, so he’ll definitely be outspoken, I imagine, in making sure that Trips is successful.

Jasper:

Yeah, absolutely. And it’s going to be hard to find a replacement for him, given his experience, also with his hotel brand, Joie de Vivre. I think he sold it before he joined Airbnb, but it was a unique boutique hotel chain that he started in 1987 when he was only 26 years old, and I think he built it into a brand with over 50 hotels, you know. So, all the things that you mentioned, it’s going to be pretty hard to find a replacement that sort of matches his level of experience, and also the vision that he brought, as well, I think.

Nicole:

I completely agree with you. I was kind of brainstorming who would replace him. Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe they’ll create a new title. Maybe they won’t even replace him at all. Those are big shoes to fill, so I’m not sure how they will do that, but, you know, it’ll be interesting to watch. They’re going to need somebody to look after Hospitality because that’s the direction that they’ve decided to head, so they will need somebody overseeing Hospitality.

Jasper:

Yeah, they need somebody to organize the next Airbnb Open, as well.

Nicole:

Yes, that is true. Right. Right, absolutely.

Jasper:

Awesome.

Nicole:

That was also, yeah, he’s big on festivals and conferences. I’m sure we would see him speak, though, again. I mean, that’s where he is comfortable, on stage.

Jasper: Absolutely, yeah. I’ve met him several times, and he’s a really cool guy. You know, other than all his accomplishments, it seems like he’s not ‘working next to his shoes’, as we say in Holland. He’s always stayed like a really approachable, normal guy, and responding to emails and stuff like that. He’s not so hard to get a hold of as some of the other people within Airbnb.

Nicole:

Yeah, yeah. Well, and it seems like he wants to give back. I mean, he has been so successful, and he wants to share that now, being on the Boards. I think he’s on a Burning Man project, which has a philanthropic angle, while they’re in San Francisco, and then I know he’s with Everfest. So, those are Boards where he can teach and give back, and help the new generation coming in for hospitality. So, it doesn’t surprise me that he’s accessible. That’s good to hear.

Jasper:

Well, if he’s listening, I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

Nicole:

Yeah, congratulations.

Jasper:

And I think he did a really great job.

Nicole:

Yeah, absolutely.

Jasper:

So, let’s move on to the next article that we’ll be discussing, and that will be an article in The New York Times, and I’m very happy and proud to discuss this article because I was actually mentioned in the article. It’s a reporter who wrote the guide on being an Airbnb Superhost, and he gives some really good advice in the article, but also, he starts off with a pretty interesting story about one of his own Airbnb experiences. Do you want to comment on that?

Nicole:

Yeah. Well, first of all, congratulations on being quoted in The New York Times. Fantastic job, Jasper. That’s amazing. That’s great. And the story is, you know, we’ve all had this as hosts, we’ve had something unexpected. Maybe not something as big as this, but, basically, he had rented his house out for the weekend to a small group, and it turned out that they all arrived, rental companies were showing up, and more guests, and there was actually a wedding that was happening unbeknownst to him. However, he has wonderful neighbors who were able to text him and give him updates, and also take pictures. Did you read? Like, that’s how he was actually able to get some of the deposit back, I believe it was, because his neighbors had taken pictures of these guests arriving.

But, wow, to find out that there’s a wedding going on at your house when you just thought there was going to be a small group getting together.

Jasper:

Yeah, that’s pretty shocking. I mean, I’ve been fortunate enough to never really experience a lot of issues with my guests, (knock on wood), but yeah, there’s a lesson in there, as you mentioned, that if you do have any issues with your guests, always have as much evidence as possible and immediately contact Airbnb. That way, you have the best chance of getting it resolved.

Nicole:

Correct, yes. Yes. And he is a Superhost, and you’re a Superhost.

Jasper:

Right, yeah, he is.

Nicole:

Which is, basically, what the article is about, right?

Jasper:

Right, yeah. So, being a Superhost, it’s fairly tough to get the status. I read there’s only 7% of people who are a Superhost. Now, I know how hard it is to get it because I actually lost my own Superhost status at some point when I started to raise prices for my apartment, because you know, the more you charge, the pickier that people are. I understand the belief. If you stay at a Four Seasons, you expect something different than if you stay in a hostel. Especially if you’re remote hosting, you’re not meeting your guests, it’s really tough to get the Superhost status. You have to get 80% or higher five-star reviews. So, for every five reviews that you get, you have to get four- or five-star reviews. So, you know, if in two out of five stays, there’s some minor issue which makes your guest give you a four-star review, then you’re already short of it because then you’re at 60%. So, it’s definitely tough.

Nicole:

Right.

Jasper:

I’m very happy that I got it back. I really put a lot of effort into it. But, he provides some good advice in the article on how to become a Superhost. He mentions hospitality, so he mentions that it’s very different. You’re not just providing accommodation, you’re providing an experience. Everything should be as advertised. The place should be really clean. You should provide a lot of amenities for your guests, like clean towels, plenty of sheets. He mentions soap for bathing, toothpaste, toilet paper, etc. There’s some good stuff in there.

Nicole:

Right. And, also, just transparency. I remember, you know, just going back to Chip Conley just briefly, at Airbnb Open when he was speaking, he said that, you know, it’s nice to include at the top, three things that guests love about your property, about your listing, and two things that they’re not so crazy about. And that tells people right off the bat that you’re being honest and transparent and open, and that’s really what forms the relationship of trust, which is what Airbnb is pretty much based on. You want the guest to be able to trust you, and you try and form that trust from the first communication, right?

Jasper:

Absolutely, yeah. You know, the way I always describe, if you were to ask me, “How do you become a Superhost? How do you get five-star reviews?”, if I have to summarize it in one sentence, I’d say it is under-promise and over-deliver.

Nicole:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I agree with you. You know, for us, (my husband and I, we are both the hosts), we haven’t reached the Superhost status. It’s been the missing link. The missing link has been the five-star reviews. Everything else, we’ve hit, and I think we are very responsive. The communication, the lines of communication are always open. We are unable to meet, I would say, most of our guests, 90% of our guests, in person because it’s a remote property, so we haven’t been able to form the tight in-person relationships, but we try and do that through always being available, through communication, so through messaging and stuff like that. But, I think that that helps with us keeping our house constantly booked and getting the reviews that we do have.

Jasper:

Absolutely. And some of the other things that he mentioned is, you know, I think that being honest is a very important point, by the way. I, for example, my neighborhood is a little bit noisy because there’s a lot of stuff going on, so I specifically mention that in my listing, that if you’re a light sleeper or if you don’t like to be in a noisy area, then you probably shouldn’t stay at my place. And, I absolutely agree, it creates trust, and that’s what it’s all about.

There’s a few other things I was going to mention – solve problems quickly. I think that’s an important thing. And also, if there is a problem, you need to know about it, right, so you need to ask your guests after they’ve stayed one night, because usually, you know, the sleeping is really important, right. So after they’ve had one night of sleep, like, check in with your guest and ask them, “Hey, is everything okay?”

The other thing in the article of Brian’s, he mentions that he once got a four-star review or three-star review, even though the guest didn’t complain or they didn’t mention that there was anything wrong. But, that’s the thing, guests don’t always provide you with that feedback, right. They don’t feel like they want to complain about little things, but then they’ll still give you a four-star review. So, it’s really important to reach out to your guest during their stay and double-check with them and let them know, “If there’s anything sub-par, please let me know so I can do something about it.”

Nicole:

Correct, yeah. And I, also, we have a standard message that goes out as soon as they check out, saying that we hope they had a wonderful stay, even whether we communicated with them throughout or not. And then, we tell them that we would appreciate their review, and if there’s anything they might suggest, if they could leave it in the private area because we read all of those and we really take them to heart.

And, actually, since we’ve been doing that, they don’t write everything in the actual public review. And, if they tell us, you know, since we’re not there at the property, (and this applies to many because I think there’s like two-thirds of Airbnb listings are not in the home anymore, they’re remote properties), so maybe suggest to them to write it in a private area and you’ll say you’re on top of it. And we do it. We have somebody go down there and take care of the issues, if there’s anything, right away, whether it’s sheets that need to be replaced, or there’s a small leak, or whatever it may be.

Jasper:

Absolutely.

Hosts, I can’t emphasize how important it is to share recommendations of things to do or eat near your listing beforehand. Your guests won’t have to go through TripAdvisor, Foursquare, or Yelp. They won’t have to scratch their head and think about possible places right in the moment. I’ve been using Hostfully to create an online and printable guidebook to show my guests my favorite coffee places in Amsterdam. They use my recommendations, and I’m getting fewer questions from my guests as a result. I’ve also included screenshots of my guidebook on my Airbnb listing as a way to differentiate my listing from others. So, make your own guidebook at hostfully.com/pad.

Last point that I want to mention is about cleanliness, and I think cleanliness is still being underestimated in the Airbnb niche. I think it’s the number one complaint in the hospitality industry from guests, so including hotels and all sorts of different accommodation. And, it’s really tricky, the cleanliness, you know? I actually had… I get a few complaints every now and then about my place, and I don’t really know what to do about it because I think my cleaning lady does a really good job. She cleans hotels, as well, so she knows the standards. But sometimes, you know, it’s pretty hard to get your house completely spotless, and you know, even one little hair in the shower or the bath could ruin it, right?

Nicole:

Right, right, right.

Jasper:

So, what are your thoughts?

Nicole:

One little cobweb that was overlooked, you know. We have trees all around our house, so yes, there are insects outside and they will make their way inside. Yeah, I don’t know what to do about that. There are different standards of cleanliness, and when you have guests coming from around the world, and also, you know, just their lifestyle. So, do they have children, do they not have children? You know? Do they live alone and maybe everything’s sterile? You know, that is difficult. And you’re right, it’s underestimated. It’s fantastic that you have a cleaner who actually cleans in hotels, too, but you know, hotel guests have complaints about cleanliness, too. So, it’s not just Airbnb exclusive.

Jasper:

That’s true. That’s very true. Yeah, it’s not so much the actual cleanliness, it’s more the perception that the guests have, right? Because if there’s, for example, I think I mentioned this before, but recently I learned about an Airbnb host who puts a little sticker on the toilet rolls, just to show that they’re completely brand-new.

Nicole:

Smart, right?

Jasper:

Just the thought. The toilet could be completely clean, but just the thought that somebody else was using that toilet a few hours ago, or earlier that day, or even yesterday, is not a fault that you really want to have.

Nicole:

Right, right. Yeah. It’s all perception, right?

Jasper:

It’s all, perception is reality.

Nicole:

Mm-hm. Yeah, I hope so.

Jasper:

All right. Let’s move on to the next article, and this is about Santa Monica, which is one of the toughest places to be an Airbnb host in the world, I think.

Nicole:

Yeah, they have been tough. They’re so protective of affordable housing in Santa Monica, is what I’m guessing, because, as we were reading, they, I think last year, made $51 million in revenue from the hotel tax, and they have places to go for business travel, they have the Convention Center, and they have these huge hotels, so they’re making money from these large groups coming in. What’s a host here and there, or guest here and there, in a small place? How’s that going to affect them? But, I think it comes down to, they’ve always protected affordable housing. They have rent control that has lasted throughout the ages, and they don’t want… They want to protect everything there, is what I’m guessing. I mean, what did you think, reading about how they’re making this law even stricter?

Jasper:

Yeah, so well, first of all, let’s look at the actual article. So, it says, “Public registration required for homeowners providing rentals…” So, basically, what it means is, you have to register with the city if you want to be an Airbnb host. And, well, you can only be an Airbnb host if you rent out a room or part of your house. You have to actually be living in the house and be there while your guests are visiting. You’re not allowed to do anything remotely. But, if you do, then you also have to register now with the city, and it’s a public registry, so anyone could look into the registry and figure out who’s an Airbnb host.

Nicole:

So, they’re trying to dissuade people from hosting.

Jasper:

I mean, basically, yeah. Everything they do in Santa Monica just communicates one thing, and that is, “We don’t want people to do Airbnb.” And, I don’t know why, because the article also mentions the tax revenue, because Airbnb collects the taxes on behalf of the hosts for the city, right, and it was $1.8 million versus $51,000 from the hotels. So, it’s only a few percent, let’s say about 3% of what the hotel industry’s making, so it’s a very small niche. And, you know, now they’re expecting it to drop to $1.3 million, so basically, that means that they’re expecting that the number of nights being hosted on Airbnb’s going to drop by about 30%.

You know, I just think, and I think this is overall in a lot of cities where the houses are expensive… You know, for example, in Amsterdam, it’s the same thing. House prices have been going up for 20, 30 years, rents have been going up, and we have a lot of rent control, and so the places that aren’t on the rent control, there’s fewer of them, so those prices are going up really fast. But, I think Airbnb is just kind of the scapegoat here because, you know, people are saying, “Oh, the prices are going up because of Airbnb,” but, I mean, prices have been going up for a long time, way before Airbnb even existed. And, given how small Airbnb really is, if you compare it to the amount of houses and the amount of hotel rooms, etc., then it’s not even such a big player. So, what I think is that they just want a scapegoat.

Nicole:

Right, right. There’s not been one good independent study showing that Airbnb causes rents to go up within areas. I mean, there just hasn’t been. Airbnb conducted a study saying that they don’t, but you know, there’s not an independent study out there.

I also read that some renters are using Airbnb to help pay the rent. So, they’re renting out a room in their home or apartment where they’re renting so that they can actually meet the rent. So, maybe there’s just an affordable housing crisis going on that has nothing to do with Airbnb, but it’s easy to blame them.

Jasper:

Yeah.

Nicole:

You know, Airbnb has actually helped a lot of cities because, where there are neighborhoods where there are no hotels, you’re getting foot traffic from tourists who have more money to spend, or are willing to spend it at that time, and those businesses are getting more revenue from these different tourists that would not normally go into those neighborhoods where they’re able to stay now in a home. So, I think there’s some good out there and the cities need to look at that. I don’t think Santa Monica will.

Jasper:

Yeah, I think there’s a lot of good things about Airbnb. It’s using space in a more efficient way, right?

Nicole:

Right.

Jasper:

Especially if there’s a shortage of housing, it’s good that when you’re away, when you’re on holiday or when you’re travelling, that you can rent out your place so that the space is being used while you’re away. I mean, fundamentally, it’s only good, but I think what happens is that, you know, whenever there’s something new, there’s always people who somehow have negative effects, right. I mean, whenever the status quo changes, there’s always winners and losers, and you know, the total net take could be a huge gain, but those people who are being affected negatively, they obviously, they’re not going to like it, right?

Nicole:

Right.

Jasper:

And so, I guess the hotel lobby must be pretty strong in Santa Monica, as well. I can only imagine.

Nicole:

Yes, absolutely.

Jasper:

So, that might be part of it, as well. And, I mean, it is true, house prices and rents are pretty crazy in Santa Monica. I was just there during the Airbnb Open in November. I have a lot of friends in Santa Monica and I really like hanging out there, so I stayed there for like a week or so, and it’s, yeah, it’s an expensive area.

Nicole:

Yeah, all of west L.A., yeah, it’s very expensive.

Jasper:

Yeah, I mean, it was just from looking at my credit card statement after just a week. I mean, I understand that people are concerned about the rents and the house prices. I just don’t think that Airbnb is such a big influence.

Nicole:

Yeah, I agree. It’s all over California. If you look up and down the Coast, anytime you’re trying to get close to the ocean, it’s going to be high, whether you’re buying or renting. But, how funny was it that, reading the article, one of the city council members had to abstain from voting because her husband works for the law firm that is representing Airbnb in their lawsuit against Santa Monica for this entire ordinance? I just thought that was quite ironic and brought a little comedy to the whole story.

Jasper:

That’s pretty funny, yeah, because Airbnb’s actually sued the city of Santa Monica, right?

Nicole:

Right, right, that’s true.

Jasper:

They’re arguing that it was against…

Nicole:

Unlawful.

Jasper:

Yeah, unlawful. They were saying that disclosing the information violates the Fourth Amendment.

Nicole:

Right, right. And then, they threw in the First and the Fourteenth Amendment, too, you know, Freedom of Speech, and they just… Yeah, we’ll see what happens with that. It’s interesting to watch what will happen with that.

Jasper:

Yeah, they kind of threw in everything there.

Nicole:

Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

Jasper:

Awesome. Well, there’s some interesting stuff going on in the world of Airbnb.

Again, Nicole, thank you very much for coming on the show and discussing this with me. It was a pleasure.

Nicole:

Yeah. Thanks so much, Jasper. Thanks for having me. I hope to do it again.

Jasper:

Yeah, absolutely. Well, I’ll be doing this every week, and always going to invite one of the team members of Hostfully to get a different perspective every week. It’s always a good thing, so every Thursday. This episode is being published on Friday because there was a national holiday on Monday, and my editor needs a few days to make sure the podcast comes out as good as it can be, but every Thursday, there will be one of these episodes.

So, thanks for listening everybody, thanks for Nicole for coming on, and we’ll be back next week.

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