EP129: The Importance of Diversifying Your Airbnb Business

EP129: The Importance of Diversifying Your Airbnb Business


Jasper talks with Peter, the host of Clyde River Cottage in southern Australia. With a background in the hospitality business, Peter is well-versed in providing guests with a quality experience and marketing to travelers both directly and through third-party platforms.

Peter shares the advantages of diversifying your Airbnb business and discusses how he uses the Triple Wow Factor to procure five-star reviews. Listen and learn when it’s beneficial to post your listing on multiple platforms – or perhaps even create your own website!

Topics Covered

How Airbnb clients differ from other travelers

  • Airbnb guests are buying an experience
  • Most are looking to be a part of a community

The benefits of sticking with a single platform

  • Allows you to build a strong reputation
  • Keeps things simple (no chance of double-booking)

The disadvantages of using just one platform

  • Miss out on demand provided by other marketplaces
  • Can be risky to put all your eggs in one basket

Why Peter utilizes multiple platforms

  • Airbnb alone doesn’t provide enough demand to reach full occupancy in smaller markets
  • Clients who don’t trust Airbnb still have access to his listing
  • A Google search for accommodations in his area will pop three different results that lead to his listing

The advantages of having your own website

  • Opportunities for promotion (i.e.: YouTube video links, blog, newsletter for past guests)
  • Clients who prefer to deal directly with a host have access to your listing

How to prevent/manage double-bookings

  • Immediately remove your listing from other platforms when you receive a booking
  • Make connections with other Airbnb hosts in your area and offer referrals to guests who were double-booked, waiving the price difference
  • Avoid cancellations on Airbnb; you will lose your Superhost status

Peter’s secret to five-star reviews, the Triple Wow Factor

  1. Clean, comfortable accommodations
  2. Recommendations for local experiences (coffee shops, restaurants, etc.)
  3. Welcoming, available hosts

Connect with Peter

clyderivercottage.com.au

 Resources Mentioned

stayz.com.au

Peter’s Prawning Video

Connect with Jasper

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @GetPaidForUrPad

Instagram: @GetPaidForYourPad 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/getpaidforyourpad

This episode is sponsored by Hostfully.com where you can create a custom digital guidebook for your guests!

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Complete Transcript for Get Paid for Your Pad Episode 129

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.

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.

Hey, everybody, welcome to episode #127, and today I have a guest all the way from Down Under, Australia. His name is Peter, and he has a lot of experience in the hospitality business, so we’re going to learn a lot from him.

So, Peter, welcome to the show.

Peter:

Hi, good morning, Jasper, or good afternoon to you.

Jasper:

Good afternoon to me. I’m here in Cali in Columbia, in warm Columbia. What’s the weather like in Australia right now?

Peter:

Today it is absolutely beautiful, but it’s only about 22 or 23 degrees because we’re right in the middle of our summer. However, two days ago, it was 44 degrees Celsius, so we had a really, really hot one, and today is just totally different. So, it’s absolutely fantastic.

Jasper:

Wow, so the temperature can vary quite a bit. That’s over 20 degrees.

Peter:

Yeah, yeah. Well, as I said, it was 44 degrees two days ago, and you couldn’t do much at all, and then we’ve had a cold change come through, which is nice. We often get that, living on the coast, but the people that live right inland, well, they don’t get that coastal influence. So, where my parents live, they live at a town called Lightning Ridge, and their average temperature at this time of the year would be around about 42, 43, and that’s pretty consistent for two or three months of the year.

Jasper:

Right. So, your Airbnb’s located in the south of Australia. Is it fairly close to Sydney?

Peter:

It’s about a four-hour drive from Sydney, but more importantly, it’s only about a two-hour drive from Canberra, the capital of Australia. So, what happens is, a lot of people from Canberra, they’ve actually called where I live now Canberra Beach because we’re so close, so they just drive down over the mountain and they come down to the coast quite a lot for their holidays. And where our Airbnb is located is right on the Clyde River, a little small village called Nelligan. And so, it’s a lovely part of the world. It’s a lot of waterways and wakes, rivers, a lot of national parks, and there’s seafood. In particular, the oysters here are very, very famous. So, it’s a nice place.

Jasper:

Awesome. It sounds very appealing.

So, the topic for today will be how to diversify over multiple platforms, or even your own website, because this is something that you’re a strong believer in. But, let’s start with your history in hospitality because you used to own a caravan park, so I’d love to hear a little bit more about that.

Peter:

Yeah, okay. A caravan park, or a holiday park, here in Australia, I managed that, we owned that for 13 years. Normally, a caravan park is where people bring their caravans and they park it to have their holiday, and then they take off again. Our caravan park was a little bit different in that we didn’t target the actual caravan market. We had eight or so cottages, very old-style cottages, and we had a lovely camping ground, so we would mostly target the people that wanted to go camping or had camper trailers, and that way, it set us a little bit apart from the other people.

So, importantly, a lot of the caravan parks here in Australia belong to very, very big chains, for example, the BIG4 Holiday Parks, where all their marketing is done by an outside agency, whereas I was totally independent and I had my own website, and we had about 90% of our bookings come direct to ourselves, rather than a third party. And this is where I think it’s very, very important not to have all your eggs in the one basket. We used to go through other online agents, such as Wotif and booking.com, Agoda, TripAdvisor, but we often found that we had problems with people coming from there because they were getting the wrong information. And so, this is the major difference in the need to diversify, I think.

Jasper:

So, why were people getting the wrong information, because the information that was displayed on all those other booking sites wasn’t correct?

Peter:

Some of them, or one of them in particular which I won’t mention, they write the description for you, and it’s very, very difficult to keep in touch with the client once they’ve booked. So, they get limited information, and so then they might turn up, it’s not quite what they believed.

For example, there’s one OTA that I’m currently using, and they decided to remove all the captions from the photos. And we had this lovely photo of our house looking over the river, and the caption was, “Your cottage is directly behind this house.” And once they removed that caption, we had people booking, expecting to get the whole house, not understanding that the cottage is behind the house. So, that’s just another example where things can go wrong.

And, you also get different types of people. So, for example, with our Airbnb now, because Airbnb is what I call a community platform where you have that really nice interaction, it’s very, very different getting an Airbnb client instead of a client that might book through a booking.com or Agoda, where they’re used to just buying a hotel room for the night. And the people are a little bit different, insofar as, one person’s buying an experience and another person’s buying just a room for the night, if that makes sense.

Jasper:

Yeah, that totally, that makes a lot of sense.

Which of the platforms are you currently using for your property, and can you also tell a little bit about what you’re renting out currently? You’re saying it’s a cottage behind the house where you live?

Peter:

Okay, so after we sold the holiday park, we wanted to keep involved with the tourism industry. We bought a beautiful house right on the river, and it’s absolutely fantastic. And we had an old garage out behind the house, so we spent two or three months totally renovating the garage specifically for Airbnb. So, we knew what people wanted. We put a nice bathroom in there, we had a very, very large bedroom, and we made it as comfortable as possible. We put in a lot of our personal effects to make it nice and homely, and even in the guidebook, we would explain where a lot of the personal effects are from. Like, we have a carpet from Tibet, and so wrote a little story about where the carpet came from, how it came to be there, and people really like that because it makes them feel as if they are part of your house.

So, that’s the main one we rent out. We take a maximum of two people for that one because it’s only small, and we have one bedroom in our house which we rent out from time to time if we feel like it, and that’s also going pretty well.

So, with the platforms, we only use about three or four at this time, where I used to use about 20 or so different platforms. But, they’re very, very hard to manage because the most dangerous thing, of course, is double booking. And we used Airbnb, another one that’s big here in Australia and New Zealand that’s called Stayz, and then I had my own website. Now, looking at our booking statistics at the moment, Airbnb’s running around about 50%, I think Stayz is around about 40%, and direct bookings through my own website is about 10%. So, it’s quite easy to manage all those three.

The important thing to understand is that when I first started renting out our accommodation here, I thought I would just do it through Airbnb totally, and what happened was, I was talking to one of the tourism people here, and she said to me that, “Oh, I’d never book an Airbnb place.” And I said, “Well, what do you mean?” She said, “I’ve heard a lot of bad things about Airbnb on the television, and other people, and it’s not very good.” And I was trying to explain to her. I said, “Yes, but it’s only a booking platform. It’s not like a hotel or a hotel chain.”

But then, I got thinking, if that was her attitude, and she’s involved in tourism and is pretty knowledgeable, well then, there must be a lot of other markets. So, that’s why I then opened it up to a different platform, which is Stayz, and sure enough, we found that half the bookings are coming through there rather than Airbnb because there’s still some people that don’t maybe trust Airbnb or they’ve heard some of the bad things. And, once again, that hit home, how important it is not to have all your eggs in the one basket.

So, if Airbnb’s reputation gets really, really bad, I can always fall back on my bookings coming from Stayz. If they both go really, really bad, I can fall onto my bookings from my website. So, I think it’s important to have a diversified source of clients.

Jasper:

Right. And when you first started, you started with just Airbnb, correct?

Peter:

Yes.

Jasper:

And were you able to get up to about 70%, 80% occupancy with just Airbnb, or not?

Peter:

No. Because we live not in the major tourism area, we had to be a little bit…not sneaky, but after reading your book, “Get Paid For Your Pad” and listening to all the podcasts, one thing you suggested was to offer single-night bookings and to keep the price quite low. And our strategy, as you explained, was to get as many reviews as possible, and that way, that builds your strength up in the search engines for Airbnb and it gives people more confidence.

So, we actually started nearly 12 months ago, and we’ve currently got 30 reviews for the cottage and we have 10 reviews for the bedroom in our house, and we’ve been a Superhost since we started, so we’ve got a very, very strong background. So, now we can feel more comfortable if I do want to change it to a minimum of two nights, but at the moment, the single nights are working pretty well anyhow, so there’s no need to change that.

Jasper:

Right, because if you think about the advantages of being just on Airbnb versus diversifying, because I’m sure there’s a lot of people who think about that, you know, I think if there’s enough demand on one platform, because the advantage of being on one platform is that you can build a very strong reputation. Every booking, every review, all the activity that happens on the platform will increase, improve your visibility in the search engine, right. And the second advantage is that it keeps things very simple. You never have to worry about double bookings, you don’t have to worry about multiple platforms. But the disadvantage, obviously, is that you’re missing out on demand on other marketplaces.

Peter:

Exactly.

Jasper:

So, there’s kind of like a trade-off going on, and what makes most sense to me is that if you’re in a big market, like myself, I’m in Amsterdam, there’s a lot of demand on Airbnb, then it makes sense to build a very strong reputation on that platform. But, if you’re in a smaller market where there’s just not enough demand on one platform to reach full occupancy, then it makes sense to diversify over multiple platforms.

And one thing I forgot to say, you mentioned it before and this is very true, the disadvantage, as well, of being on one platform is that you’re kind of dependent on that platform, right. It’s a bit more risky, because if that one platform for some reason… I mean, Airbnb could even disable your account without having to provide any reason. This has happened to some Airbnb hosts that I know. So, you know, there’s definitely something, some risk, some extra risk in just listing on one platform.

Peter:

Yeah, well, that’s the same for any business, Jasper. For example, a lot of our online businesses were based on having a really good high Google search ranking, and when Google changed their algorithm, a lot of those businesses were pushed off the front page and they went, literally, bust overnight. Looking at the accommodation industry, even yourself, you were totally reliant on Airbnb in Amsterdam, and then the rules changed, so then you could only book it out for 60 days, so that affected your business entirely, to the point that you had to actually sell up. So, yeah, it is important to diversify, to have different sources of where your guests come from, not only for accommodation but for any business at all. It just makes common sense.

But, I do like your point, though, that if you can be very, very strong in one, it gets back to where your accommodation is based. So, for example, I have another property up in Sydney which is in very, very strong demand, and I’m going to be putting that on Airbnb because I’m pretty confident that I can probably get a 90%, 95% occupancy rate through Airbnb. But, where I am now, that is not possible just using the one platform.

So, for example, if people go to do a Google search at the moment, they might search in ‘Nelligan accommodation’, Nelligan’s the village where I live, and first of all, they’ll see two or three advertisements. There’ll be an advertisement for, perhaps, Airbnb, and then that person might go to Airbnb and click on that, and if all goes well, I’ll come up on the top of Airbnb if there’s a vacancy. But then, looking further down the page of Google, there might be another ad from Stayz, and once in, if they click on that, I also rank very, very highly on that platform, so I’ll be number one there. But then, you get the people that think, “No, no, I don’t want to go through another agency like Stayz, or VRBO, or Airbnb. I prefer to deal direct.” So, if they go further down the page, then they’ll find my own website.

So, on that one page, I have about three or four bites at the cherry, rather than one. So, it’s like fishing with a net – the bigger your net, the more people you’re going to catch.

Jasper:

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.

Right. And I just realized there’s another point to be made, which is that the smaller the market is that you’re in, that also, the easier it is to get a reputation, right. Like, for example, in Amsterdam, to be on the first couple of pages, you need to have a very, very strong reputation. You need to have a lot of bookings, a lot of reviews, etc. But, in a smaller market, you don’t need that much activity to show up on the top page, just because there’s less competition.

Peter:

That’s exactly right. But, by having your website… And don’t forget, when I say ‘have your own website’, give your property a name, like we call ours Clyde River Cottage. And so, if people find that, I use my own booking engine, but you can have a Book Now button on your own website and that link will take you straight to, for example, it might take you straight to Airbnb anyhow, but it won’t take you to the Airbnb page with everyone else on it. It’ll just take you straight to your Airbnb listing, so that’s a neat way to get around it by using different platforms.

But, also, having your own website, it’s basically, you can have it as a blog so you can write about the different things that you might want to do. For example, when we were at the holiday park, one special activity was going for what they call ‘prawning’, where at nighttime, you’d take a small net and a light, and you’d go down into the ocean, and you’d shine the light in the water and prawns will come up, and you can catch them. And it’s a very, very famous activity down here.

So, what I did, I made a video of how to go prawning, and I think it was called “How to Go Prawning”, and I put that up on YouTube. I put a link across to my website, and I think that’s up to around about 15,000 views, and that’s where people who watched all the way through. So, anyone that wanted to go prawning and that did the search in Google would then find my video, they’d be taken straight to my website, and then I got a lot of bookings out of that. And that’s something else you can do if you’re in an area that’s not like Amsterdam where you’re getting a lot of traffic in, but in some of these smaller places where you can explain some of the other experiences that are available.

Jasper:

Right, yeah. I think that’s a really good point. Having your own website opens up a lot of opportunities for promotion. You could also send out a newsletter every couple months, or something to your past guests, you can add videos, you can do a lot of things. So, that’s a really smart way to do it.

Peter:

Yeah, well, it’s still good, they can contact you by phone. I’m not saying to go outside the Airbnb platform because, as I said, you can still choose to have people book through Airbnb, but the difference is, when they go to that page, when they’re doing a search for you, you’ll pop up, hopefully, twice. And, as you said, to be on page one for Airbnb, for some people it’s next to impossible because other people have been around for a lot longer, they’ve got high reviews. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I’m saying, you’re booked out, then hopefully you move up the ranks.

And this is the other thing that I noticed the other day. I’m planning a trip to India very, very shortly, and for the first time, I got a little bit disappointed with Airbnb because I was looking it up, and Airbnb to me is more like a community where I feel like I’m going to be staying at someone’s house and I get to know the people there, it’s a nice experience rather than just staying at a hotel, but then, I found in Delhi that most of the Airbnb places were actually hotels and things, and I had to search and search and search, trying to find what I call a true Airbnb experience. And then, some of the prices were also very, very different to what they were in other platforms. So, I think that’s something that, being on Airbnb, doesn’t work so well for you.

Jasper:

Yeah, I’ve noticed that in different places, actually. I booked a place, a split, in Croatia one time, and I was expecting it would be an Airbnb, but there was actually just a hotel. I was very surprised, as well.

Peter:

Yeah, well, this is the danger because if this happens a lot around the world, then people become disappointed with Airbnb, and that could be really sad because then people would think, “Well, I tried Airbnb, and it was just another hotel, and I ended up being disappointed.” And so, this is where, as Airbnb, they’ve got to be very, very careful in the way that they have people join. I remember this as a topic of conversation at the recent L.A. Open, the Airbnb Conference, where a lot of people were having 20 and 30 listings. I don’t know, but from my point of view, I like the Airbnb where it’s more that you get to meet the owners or at least one person, and they’re a bit more familiar talking about the local area, and it’s just got that nice community feeling, rather than being another hotel guest.

Jasper:

Absolutely.

And I just want to go back to the discussion about having multiple platforms because there’s one thing that we haven’t talked about, and something that I’m personally curious about because I’ve never really used multiple platforms, the most I’ve used is two – how do you make sure that there’s no double bookings?

Peter:

You have to be on top of it all the time. And this is very important, I’m very, very pleased to hear that you’re only using two platforms. Some people make the mistake of trying to list with three, four, five. You can have up to 100 if you like, and the chance of double booking is extremely high. Now, there are some software packages that would allow, when your room is booked out, that will automatically take you off the other ones, but the cost of those is too prohibitive if you’ve only got one or two listings. It’s just ridiculously too expensive.

So, what I do, I’m actually on three platforms now, I’m on Airbnb, Stayz, and my own website, because I regard my website as a platform, so three platforms is not so bad, so if I get a booking, immediately, I go to the other two platforms and take it off. It’s as simple as that. And because you get the notification straightaway by SMS or by a phone call or an email, it’s quite easy to keep in touch with that.

Jasper:

Right, and then I guess you just have to make sure that you don’t have ‘instant-booked’ turned on on all those platforms because, imagine you’re asleep and somebody books instantly on Airbnb and then somebody else books instantly on another platform, then you would have a problem.

Peter:

Okay, it can happen. It’s remote if you keep in touch with it, on top of it, but to be quite honest, if I had a booking through my own website, and then at the same time a booking through Airbnb, to be honest, I would cancel my own booking and I’d honor the one through Airbnb because Airbnb do frown upon any cancellations at all. So, I’d keep that in mind. And, for the people that I’d cancelled from my own one, I’d definitely make sure that I look after them.

So, let’s say that it did happen, that you did have a double booking and you couldn’t avoid it, what I then do is, other Airbnbs in my immediate area, I get to know them, I get to know which ones are really, really good, and what I regard as a good standard similar to mine. They might be a different price, but if, for example, I double book, I can always ring them up and say, “Hey, I’ve got this guest that I’ve double booked. Would you mind taking the booking over if the guest is agreeable to it?”

And, to make it even more sweet for the guest, if there’s a difference in price, I might wear that difference in the price, I might offer them champagne, and most importantly, you try to look after that guest that’s been messed around as much as possible. I think you have a moral obligation to do that. But, in 12 months’ time on three platforms, it has not happened.

Jasper:

Okay, well, that’s great. That seems like you’re doing a really good job. And, yeah, you’re right, it’s really important to avoid cancellations on Airbnb because, especially if you’re in Superhost, just one cancellation will prevent you from being a Superhost. You lose your status, right?

Peter:

Exactly, yeah. You don’t want to do it.

Jasper:

Yeah, that’s absolutely something that you want to avoid.

Just before we get to the end of this episode, I quickly want to touch on something that we spoke about before we started recording, which you called a ‘Triple Wow Factor’.

Peter:

Okay, the Triple Wow Factor. A lot of people have wanted to start hosting with Airbnb now, and I actually teach a short course about how people should do that, and I talk about this Triple Wow Factor because a lot of people, when they first get into Airbnb, they focus purely on the product, that is, your accommodation. So, they go to a lot of trouble making sure the towels are nice and white and fluffy, and the bathroom is clean, which is all very, very important, but to me, as a guest, I look for a Triple Wow.

So, when I walk into somewhere, I want all those things. I want the fluffy towels, I want the clean bathroom, but I also want to know what I can do in the area. So, the second Wow Factor is providing not only a good experience in their accommodation, but also the area of what they can do, where the good restaurants are, where the good coffee shops are, making them feel as if they are really at home.

And then, the third thing is your interaction with that guest, as well. So, that’s from the very, very first time they book, being a good communicator, making them feel welcome when they do arrive and not treating them just like another guest, but being really warm and friendly, and listening to them. Sometimes the guest might want to have a long chat for a while and maybe have a beer or two together, whereas others just want to relax and chill out, and not have much interaction. So, it’s making sure that they feel comfortable with you as hosts, as well. And if you don’t host it yourself but you might have a cohost or someone else doing the check-ins, the same applies for them.

And I think Airbnb recognize that, as well. When they do their reviews, they don’t just give us a one review, do they? They review you on location, they review you on cleanliness, value for money, and as a guest, I look for that Triple Wow thing. I want to be wowed three times. I want to be wowed where you are.

Like I was talking to you today about Cali. So, your accommodation at the moment doesn’t look fantastic, but you’re going to renovate your new apartment there, and so that’s going to be fantastic. And then, we talked a little about what there is to do in Cali itself. And then, the third thing would be, whoever hosts your place, there would be that local contact and giving me another wow there, so someone being really friendly.

So, we were in Cuba recently, and the lady that looked after us there, she was absolutely fantastic. And we had a lot of problems trying to book Airbnbs in Cuba because of all sorts of problems with the Internet and things, but she was that good, she actually got on the phone and booked other Airbnbs for us through our whole trip. So, even though her accommodation wasn’t what I would regard as 100%, she wowed me on the number two and number three, so she got the five-star review.

Jasper:

The Triple Wow Factor, I love it. I guess, an awesome invention and a great way to sort of summarize what a good Airbnb experience should look like.

So, thank you very much, Peter, for sharing your wisdom with us, and hopefully, if I make it all the way Down Under, I get to experience that Triple Wow Factor when I’m staying at your place.

Peter:

Absolutely.

Now, one other thing, Jasper, and I think we should make this a regular thing for all guests on your podcast, is with your Get Paid For Your Pad, when my wife and I first heard of it, what really stuck in our mind was that jingle that you’ve got, the “Get Paid For Your Pad”. That one sticks. Every time I think of you, it’s ¯ Get paid for your pad. ¯

So, I think every guest from now on, on your show, should sing it. So, here I am, I’m going to be the first.

¯ Get paid for your pad. ¯

¯ Get paid for your pad. ¯

¯ Get paid for your pad. ¯

Jasper:

I love it! Very good. Well, you could always become a singer.

Peter:

I learned all the words.

Jasper:

Awesome. That was a great performance. Thank you very much. I’ll see if my future guests are willing to do the same.

Peter:

They can’t do any worse.

Jasper:

All right, well, thanks a lot, Peter. And thanks to everybody for listening, and we’ll see you next week.

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