EP116: Creating Personal Freedom Using Airbnb

EP116: Creating Personal Freedom Using Airbnb

Creating personal freedom using Airbnb

Many people have achieved a greater level of financial freedom by renting out their Pads on Airbnb. However, most haven’t made the bold life decisions of this guest!

Chris Black joins Jasper to talk about his journey from a programmer in San Francisco to owning a Bed & Breakfast in Bangkok Thailand! Chris’ Airbnb story starts when he quit his job, bought a boat and sailed the Caribbean for a few months while renting out his San Francisco pad on Airbnb. Chris’ journey is fascinating and he has some great advice on the importance to listening to your gut and achieving personal freedom using Airbnb.

Some of the topics covered:

Chris’ life in San Francisco

  • Programmer for an ad agency
  • Felt like he was missing out on a lot of experiences due to work

Chris leaving his job and buying a boat in the Caribbean

How Chris got started rented out his place on Airbnb

  • Goal was to offset expensive rent
  • Found out he really liked hospitality

Experiences in the Caribbean

  • Took 6 months to adjust
  • Coding offered an “anchor” point

The genesis of Kama bed and Breakfast

  • Wanted to replace programming income with passive income
  • Wanted to learn a new culture and language

Advice for thriving on Airbnb

  • Communicate clearly
  • Set expectations
  • Focus on the guest’s experience
  • Find and use tools (technology)

Learn more about Kama

kamabangkok.com

Resources Mentioned

sabeeapp.com

bitly.com

Connect with Jasper

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @GetPaidForUrPad

Instagram: @GetPaidForYourPad 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/getpaidforyourpad

This episode is sponsored by Hostfully.com!

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Complete Transcript for Get Paid for Your Pad Episode 116

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 another episode of Get Paid For Your Pad. And today, the topic of the interview is how to use Airbnb to create personal freedom, and I’m talking to somebody who’s created a lot of personal freedom, a very interesting story. His name is Chris Black. So, Chris, welcome to the show.

Chris

Hey, thank you. Glad to be here.

Jasper:

How’s it going? How’s life in Bangkok, where you are?

Chris:

Aw, it’s great. It’s warm every day, and the food tastes good. Life is pretty easy. It’s pretty good.

Jasper:

That’s great. That’s great.

So, let’s dive right in. I know you currently live in Bangkok, but that’s not where you grew up and that’s not where you got involved with Airbnb, so let’s go a little back in time, and let’s start with when you found out about Airbnb.

Chris:

Yeah, well, I was living in San Francisco in the early 2000s, mid 2000s, and I think I first heard about Airbnb, probably, about 2008, 2009. And, at the time, I was a programmer for an ad agency, a nationwide ad agency. And, you know, I had started programming and doing design in 1998 in Silicon Valley, so by that time, I had been doing it for quite some time, and right about 2010, I was looking for a way to, yeah, I mean, basically create more personal freedom for myself. I had felt like the writing was on the wall, so to speak. After 12 years of programming, you know, my life was all about conference calls and deadlines. I was like a Senior Manager type person, and I really felt like I was really good at what I did, and I loved what I did, but I felt like I was missing a lot of moments with my friends, with my family, and even for myself.

So, at a certain point, I got a little bit of confidence and decided to basically quit my job and start programming for myself in order to have a bit more time. And at the time, it was great. I ended up getting a really nice contract that ended up being, essentially, a salary for me. I took a little bit of a pay cut, but I was able to be wherever I wanted, and I bought a boat in the Caribbean because I love fishing, and so I was basically living on the boat. I was fishing during the day and programming at night, and it was quite a nice little setup.

And while I was gone from San Francisco, I was renting out my place, and so that was on Airbnb, and so that was my first entree with Airbnb. And, at first, I really didn’t, I think, understand it for what we understand it for now. You know, it seemed like a good way to offset my San Francisco rent while I wasn’t there, but I didn’t see it as a new lifestyle at the time.

And sort of two things happened. One, I found that I had a real taste for the hospitality industry, or, as I would say, maybe like creating an experience for a guest. I really got into that from an intellectual standpoint and an executional standpoint. On the other hand, I started to see how valuable one day was in terms of income. And so, while I was in the Caribbean for months at a time, my rent was being paid for in San Francisco. I was making a little bit on top of it, plus supporting some friends that were helping me with the cleaning and things like that while I was away.

And, for me, at the beginning, it was, and still is, it was definitely a net positive on the whole experience, and it was the first time I started to see that a daily rental sort of scenario could really help me be more free in my life. So, yeah, that’s kind of how I got introduced to Airbnb.

Jasper:

Your story sounds very similar to mine, actually. I quit my job in 2010, as well. I didn’t know about Airbnb at the time, unfortunately. That happened two years later. But, I really like your story, and I think it’s a pretty awesome idea to buy a boat and go to the Caribbean.

Were you nervous, at all, about this decision? I remember, you know, before I quit my job, I was pretty nervous. I was a little scared about it because, you know, you’re giving up pretty much everything you know, and I didn’t really know what was going to happen.

Chris:

Yeah, I was definitely nervous, and it was definitely one of the weirder experiences that I’ve felt, because for the first…like, I needed to be somewhere, you know? Like, for so long, Monday morning I had to be somewhere. People were expecting me to be somewhere. And so, for the first couple of months, it was just a really strange feeling to not have to be anywhere, and it took me, probably, about six months to get used to not being driven by demands outside of me and to sort of create my own paths. Because it always sounds really fun, you know, “Oh! I don’t have any work,” but you know, unfortunately, even from the time that we’re kids, we’re used to having something to do that we have to go do. So, that was the first time that I didn’t have to be anywhere and it was a bewildering feeling.

Pretty soon, though, I started to fill my time, and thankfully, like I said, I kept doing what I loved to do, which was to write code and design, and so, there was an anchor point in my life and I didn’t feel like I was just floating. But, yeah, I mean, it was definitely scary, and it wasn’t until I really relocated to the Caribbean part-time that I started to feel in control of my own destiny and moving forward in life.

Jasper:

Yeah, I can totally relate to everything you’re saying, and I always feel like, when I was younger, it’s almost like there’s a path for you that you’re just supposed to follow. It’s almost like society and your family, they kind of run your life for you, until at some point, you know, you quit your job, and suddenly, the world just opens up to you and you can choose whatever you want to do. And since you’re not used to having that choice, it’s a little overwhelming at first. That’s definitely the feeling that I got, as well.

I remember just waking up the first morning when I didn’t have to go to work, and you know, before, if I would have a holiday, I would always plan something to do, right. I would book a trip or whatever, but now, it was like, “Okay, what am I going to do today, and what am I going to do this week, and this month, and the next year?” Yeah, there’s a lot of questions that come up.

But, I just want to, quickly, I want to go back to your boat in the Caribbean because I’m trying to imagine it, and I imagine you were sleeping on the boat, correct?

Chris:

That’s correct, yeah.

Jasper:

And so, were you always out on the ocean, or were you mostly docked at the harbor, or how does that work?

Chris:

Yeah, well, I bought a boat, and then I had to find what’s called a slip. And so, I found this slip at a harbor. It was in St. Thomas, which is a U.S. Virgin Island. And so, I found this slip that could accommodate my boat and that was also affordable for me, because it does cost. It’s like monthly rent, in a way. And, you know, it had electrical hookups, I had water access, and then there were showers and bathrooms that were on my end. And my boat also had a shower and bathroom on it.

And, you know, at first, to be honest with you, I mean, this was like a crazy turn in my life because I went to the Caribbean to visit a friend and saw how gorgeous it was, and we went over to St. John, which is another island, and I just thought, you know, “I wonder how much a boat is?” And I’m seeing all these boats. And I literally just went to Craigslist, and eventually I ended up finding this broker, and I was only there five days, and on the last day, I went on a sea trial on the boat that I ended up buying. And went back to San Francisco, got my stuff together, pulled some money from different places, and then went back to the Caribbean and bought the boat.

And so, I had never piloted a boat on the open ocean. I had only done like small boats on rivers and lakes, and things like that, so it was also just a scary thing. You know, I just dropped a bunch of money on this boat, and they pulled it over to my slip that I had rented, and then I just sat in dock and studied the captain’s manual for like a week. And then, at a certain point, I said, “Okay, I have to get out. I have to go do it.” You know? And I took the boat out, and then came back, had some trouble docking, but you know, it was one of those things. I was just in this sort of exploratory mode.

And just to reference it back to where I’d come from, I felt like there was so many moments and so many opportunities for adventure and expanding myself that I had passed because I had another deadline, this client was waiting on this project, I was managing people, this and that. And so, I was ready for everything, you know. And yeah, so the boat was, you know, it was the first point of freedom in my life that was a risky decision. I definitely can see it as that, just because I didn’t have much experience, but that I just applied myself, believed in myself, and everything went well.

And, after that, I felt like I got into a certain flow in my life of trusting myself to make these decisions that didn’t really make sense to, maybe, those around me or someone observing from the outside in, but was aligned with who I felt like I wanted to be and risks that I was willing to take. And so, I always started to make these decisions, like, “Okay, well, what’s the worst that can happen?” And ever since I quit my job, the worst that could happen is that it could all fail and I could go back and get another job because I’m a great programmer. So, you know, beyond that, then, I’m free to do as I will, and to try, in this life, to have new experiences, that as you said before, weren’t dictated by society or my family.

Jasper:

That’s awesome. And, your boat, was it a sailing boat?

Chris:

No, it was a power boat.

Jasper:

Oh, it was power boat, right.

Chris:

Yeah, it was a 30-foot… You know, I call it a boat because I’m a little uncomfortable, but it was a 30-foot yacht, and it wasn’t really made for fishing, but I made it fish. Yeah, I bought it from a guy who was trading up boats for his luxury charters in the Caribbean, and so it was previously one of their smaller luxury boats that they took people out on around the British Virgin Islands and U.S. Virgin Islands.

Jasper:

Right.

Chris:

So, it had a nice feel to it. The accommodations were nice, the exterior was nice. It had a nice sound system on it. It was nice and comfortable. This goes back to my inexperience with the ocean… The only thing is, it had one engine, one screw, and one gas tank, and I wanted to go all around the Caribbean on it, and pretty quickly, I realized that that was going to be fairly dangerous without redundant systems. So, I stayed a lot just around the U.S. Virgin Islands, but I learned a lot, as well.

Jasper:

Awesome. So, you had to learn how to drive the boat, and then, did you stay out in the ocean at night sometimes, or would you always come back to the harbor?

Chris:

No, yeah. So, yeah, I stayed out. So, there’s basically a lot of islands right around there, and a lot of uninhabited islands, and you know, a lot of them are national parks, both in the U.S. Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands, and they have mooring balls in the bays. The bays are generally calmer, and you can pull in and tie off to a mooring ball and sleep overnight, and you pay like a park fee, usually like $14 or something like that. And, generally, it’s just the most gorgeous scenery, beautiful clear water.

And so, yeah, I had a lot of experiences where I slept overnight in a bay and then went fishing really early the next morning. And I would go sort of pack a lunch and make coffee and things before I left, and have like cold-pressed coffee and some sort of a breakfast. And, you know, it was a really… I don’t know. A lot of times I’d get in touch with myself, and I would say, one of the first times in my life, in my adult life, where I felt a sense of contentedness, where I needed nothing more, and that was a priceless feeling for me. It was definitely something that I’d never had in San Francisco, I’d never had as a programmer. It was just this sense that everything was okay and I didn’t need anything more. So, you know, that is, like I said, it’s priceless. It’s something that came from all of those kind of crazy decisions that ended up being okay.

Jasper:

Very cool. And what did you do with the fish? Did you sell them, or you cooked the fish in your kitchen, or…?

Chris:

Yeah, that’s a great question. So, you know, fishing out over the Continental Shelf, it drops down like 20,000 feet, so the fish are quite big. So, we were catching tunas, wahoos, mahi-mahi, barracuda, (which we always threw back), and kingfish, and they were all massive. Like, I’ve caught fish, basically, as big as me. And so, there was way too much fish to eat, you know, and if you put it in the freezer or the fridge, it’s going to go bad, so I started selling it to the local restaurants. And I wasn’t the only fisherman doing this, but I had some friends that were working at restaurants. They hooked me up with their chef, and I would end up calling in and saying, you know, “I have a 30-pound wahoo, or three or four mahi-mahi,” and then I would come in and drive them up to the hotel. They would weigh them, pay me in cash. So, it was a nice way to enjoy my life while having…

You know, it took me, actually, just the dollars and cents of it all, it took me six months of going out and paying gas and not catching anything to start to learn where the fish were, and at that point, I started getting paid back and I’d go out. It cost me $200 a day just in fuel, so there were a lot of times I went fishing and didn’t make any money. And then, I started to come back with enough fish to basically pay for my gas and give me a little extra cash so I’d made a little profit off of the day. So, it wasn’t that bad, you know. It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot.

Jasper:

Wow, it’s a really cool story, and I mean, it’s basically going from one end of the spectrum to the other one. Like, living in San Francisco here with your job, and then just being out there in the middle of nowhere on the ocean catching fish.

Chris:

Yeah, it was amazing.

Jasper:

That’s awesome. One more question before we’ll talk about your current Airbnb business. How long did you do this for, and were you alone all the time, or did you go fishing with friends, or did you have a girlfriend, or something like that?

Chris:

Yeah, so it’s not good to go out on the open ocean by yourself. It’s kind of dangerous. And I learned that the hard way in the first couple of months, where I really didn’t know what the sea conditions, you know, how to read those, and the sea conditions changed on me, and I was by myself. And, obviously, I didn’t die, but it was scary and I learned from it. So, after that, my buddies would go out. Sometimes, though, they weren’t available, and so then I kind of went and did safer fishes, or kind of read the… You know, I got better at reading the weather, essentially.

At that time, I didn’t have a girlfriend, at the beginning. I met a girl down in the Virgin Islands and we dated for a while, but I really was kind of, you know, I was okay being by myself because, basically, I lived on the boat alone and I read a lot, I programmed, I tried to just get better at what I was doing. I would sit there and practice knots, you know, since I was in the boating world at that point. And, I also managed my Airbnb in San Francisco at that time. So, you know, I spent my time doing what I wanted to do, and that was the first time in a long time that, that was the first taste of, I guess, personal freedom, which is what we’re talking about, was the first time I had that.

But, yeah, it’s not safe to go out in the open ocean by yourself, 13 miles offshore. So, yeah, it’s better to have people with you if it’s at all possible.

Jasper:

Yeah, that’s kind of what I imagined. I have a friend in the Bahamas, and he has a boat, and I’ve visited him a couple times, and one time we… They would set out pots, and we’d go and check the pots, and you know, take the fish out. And then, one time, this helicopter flew over us, and he was telling me that it was a warning because it was a storm coming. And I didn’t even see it coming, and suddenly, literally like 10, 15 minutes later, the ocean was going crazy, and it was one of the wildest boat rides I’ve ever had. Yeah, I was just shocked to see how that… Typically, the water around the Bahamas is super-flat, and suddenly we were in the middle of a storm. It was crazy. So, it was a bit scary, actually.

Chris:

Yeah. My first time was when I turned around and saw a wave coming over the bow of my boat, and before, it had been just dolphins and sunny, and really gorgeous, and then, all of a sudden, this wave coming over the top of the boat, and that time I was alone. So, yeah, I totally relate to what you’re saying.

Jasper:

Yeah.

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Awesome. Well, we could probably talk about this topic for a few hours, but let’s jump forward in time and let’s talk about your current situation.

Chris:

Sure, yeah. So, in 2013, I embarked on a trip around the world. It was a bit accidental at the time. I went for a wedding in Kyrgyzstan, which is crazy, and so I stopped at a few places on the way there, and then I ended up, on the way back to San Francisco, keeping going sort of West to East. I ended up in Thailand, and it was my first time in Thailand. I traveled around for a month. I used Airbnb to find my initial place and became friendly with the hosts, and whenever I would go to another part of Thailand and come back to Bangkok, or through Bangkok, I would generally stay with them. And in one of the trips, the Airbnb host, he was really excited. We met up for coffee, and he was really excited, and said he had found a new building. And the place that he had only had four rooms, and he had found a new building that could house up to ten more rooms, so he was really excited.

And, you know, one of the other skills that I had had was in business planning, writing business plans and doing financial projections, and things like that. And a lot of my friends in San Francisco would leverage me for that skill, like, “Hey, I have this idea. Will you help me work it out, blah-blah-blah?” And so, I’m sitting there talking to him, and I just fell into my old habit of asking the questions, you know, like, “So, how many rooms? What can you charge? What are the seasonalities like? What are the risks? This and that.” And the next thing you know, something inside me got excited, and I just asked him. It was just another one of these sort of crazy moments. I just said, “Hey, would you guys mind having a partner?”

And, the background to that is that once I quit my job, I was looking for a business to invest in. I didn’t think that I wanted to still just program for myself and live on the boat forever. I wanted to create a business that would provide me with passive income. And the thing about me is, I do love to work, and I’m serious about doing things well. I really love to be involved and I don’t mind doing any part of the business. So, I knew it would be more work, but I wanted to invest the money that I had and grow it, essentially. And, ultimately, I wanted to replace my old programming income with passive income.

So, when I saw this, I got a bit excited, and he was like, “Yeah. I mean, we would be interested to talk about it.” And before I left Thailand, I went and saw the building and met the landlord, and got really excited. I flew back to San Francisco, I ran numbers on the plane the whole way there, and when I got back, I called my mom and I said, “Mom, I’m thinking about doing something a little crazy.” And I laid it out for her, and she was like, “You know, I think that’s a great idea, son.” And, I mention that only because it was pretty crazy. I had only been to Thailand for one month and I’d just met these people, you know, but again, I was in this flow of trusting my gut, and everything felt right with it.

There were a couple of other things, which is, as an American, you know… I know you’re European. You guys are used to sort of traveling around and experiencing different languages and cultures, just an hour or two from your house. In America, it’s not quite like that, and I didn’t have so many opportunities to live abroad, and so this also kind of hit that, where I wanted to learn a new culture, learn a new language, and grow as a person, I felt.

So, yeah, that’s how I ended up here in Bangkok. I mean, I made the decision, you know, like I said, sort of with my mom’s blessing, and ended up transferring money for the deposit for the building and coming back on an airplane a couple weeks later, and started to build the new project. Yeah.

Jasper:

Wow, that’s a really cool story. What I like about how you approach things is that you kind of go with your intuition, right. If it feels good, you just jump into it, and I think that’s a great way to do it because, I think, for a lot of people, and for me as well for a long time, I would always have these ideas and I would want to do things, but I wouldn’t jump on it just because I was worried. I was afraid of what would happen, you know. It’s like you’re afraid, people are afraid, of the unknown, and to jump on these type of things, there’s always a risk, of course, but usually, those are the things that are most rewarding in life.

Chris:

Absolutely. Well, and for me, I mean, it literally does come back to, I just had this really simple arithmetic in my head, like what is the worst that can happen. With the boat, it was that the boat could sink and I’d lose a bunch of money, or I could die. And I just was like, “Okay, well…”

Jasper:

Well, if that’s the worst thing, then…

Chris:

I mean, but at least I’m looking at it right in the face, you know. I’m like, “Okay, well, that could happen, but it’s likely that it won’t.” And with Kama and Bangkok, you know, it was like, “Well, I could lose a bunch of money, and then, yeah, I can always go back to San Francisco and get back into programming and restore my income, my savings account, and I’ll be okay.”

And, initially, I made the decision that it was five years, and at the time I was 40, so I thought, “Okay, 40 to 45, and if things don’t work out, I’m still employable, my brain hopefully still works and I’m still skilled in writing code, so I’ll be employable.” And that gave me some hope, because I think sometimes we don’t, obviously, we don’t quit our jobs because we don’t want to be broke. We want that security. And I’ve been trying to, and I think I’ve been successful, at creating security for myself, but for myself, not depending on a company to provide that security for me.

Jasper:

Right.

Chris:

Yeah.

Jasper:

And how has it been going? So, you’ve been using Airbnb to fill up the rooms in your hotel, or are you using different platforms, as well? You have a website, I imagine?

Chris:

Yeah, absolutely. So, yeah, the website is KamaBangkok.com, and it’s K-A-M-A-Bangkok.com. And, yeah, I mean, initially, I started out primarily on Airbnb, but then I got myself onto all the other, what we call OTAs, like booking.com, Expedia, Agoda.

You know, why I’ve always liked Airbnb, though, is that I feel like we always get the coolest customers from Airbnb, people that are not just looking at the transaction between us as like, you give me some money, I give you a place to stay. They want to connect a bit, they want to share, they want to hear about the place, the story behind the place, and that makes it, ultimately, more interesting, you know.

I feel like that’s, in a way, why Airbnb has become so successful, is that people get more unique experiences, essentially, and they’re not just a number in a hotel in a central business district in downtown where everything’s more expensive and you have to order everything. You know, when you stay with Airbnb, it’s much more personal, and that’s what I enjoyed in San Francisco, is sending people to my favorite cafes and favorite restaurants, and helping them have a better experience in San Francisco. And it’s the same thing I do here in Bangkok, helping them navigate the craziness of Bangkok, understand what’s going on with the taxis and how to find good street food, and how to get around without getting ripped off. It’s a similar service that I try to provide them, but also, they’re really cool, you know. They’re nice people, almost to a person. It’s great.

Jasper:

Yeah, absolutely. And, I wonder, because you basically run a hotel, right?

Chris:

Yeah.

Jasper:

So, you must have a lot of experiences with hospitality in general, not just with Airbnb, but what are some of the lessons that you’ve learned throughout your experience with the hotel, and what are some things that other Airbnb hosts might be able to learn from?

Chris:

Yeah, well, it actually starts with my old place in San Francisco, and I feel like because I worked in advertising agencies and branding agencies, we always talk about the customer experience or the user experience, and that is what creates value in a brand, creates value in the relationship, is what the customer’s experience is. So, I’ve always kind of taken that seriously and applied it to these other areas in my life.

With my place in San Francisco and here, I really try to design my guests’ experience from the moment that we start interacting to the moment that they arrive at our location. I try to communicate really clearly, make sure that they understand how to get to the place and what to expect once they’re there. You know, now I have staff working for me at the hotel, so I train them how to interact with the customer from the moment that the taxi drives up to drop them off. And that sort of choreography, as I call it, it sounds a little bit fake, but it’s not. It’s just making sure that the service points are there, goes from the moment of the taxi to the moment that we introduce them to their room. And, you know, I find that our customers, there’s a consistency in that that we see a positive effect from, and I feel like our customers really, really like it. You know, you can go back.

And you know how Airbnb, they send you these reminder emails when a customer’s going to come? They’re like, “Make sure to stock the fridge, put out the bagels, top off the juice,” things like that. It’s very similar to that, but I try to do it from a more experiential standpoint of their entrance into the hotel. So, we do welcome drinks, we grab their bags. We don’t have bellboys or anything like that, but myself and my employees, we carry their bags. It’s Thailand, so it’s always hot, like every day, so we also deliver our rooms cold. We leave the air conditioner on so they’re not walking into a hot room. From the way that we set the lighting, to the things that we say, the questions that we ask, we really just try to make sure that we really care for them when they arrive. So, I would say that that’s what I do.

Jasper:

Focus on the experience, I think it’s a great way to do it. I think a lot of people, initially, they focus on their house, right. They focus on their apartments.

Chris:

Absolutely.

Jasper:

Well, it’s understandable because when you’re just starting out, that’s what you have, right. And so, I think the stuff that you’re talking about is something that you typically learn throughout the Airbnb experience, and it’s definitely something that I had to learn in the beginning, and I totally agree with you that the experience starts earlier than the moment that the guest checks in. I mean, for me, the experience starts the moment that I receive the booking, you know. It’s one of the most important learning lessons for me, has been that the guests, they want to know about where they’re staying. They want to know about you as a host because they’re traveling all around the world to stay in an unfamiliar location with a person that they don’t know, and so they want to have that comfortable feeling of knowing that that person is going to take care of them, right?

Chris:

Absolutely.

Jasper:

I mean, a lot of people have one or two holidays a year, and so you don’t want to risk wasting your holiday on having a bad experience, right, and that’s why I focus very much on the communication before the guest arrives. I use a tool now that’s called Aviva IQ, which means that as soon as I get the booking, even when I’m asleep, a message automatically goes out to the person that books my place, and it’s just a welcome message, and it says that I’m on top of things and that I will send them a guidebook as soon as I can to their email. And then, when I wake up, I send them the email with a guidebook that I made through Hostfully, and that’s just a great start. That’s a great start to the experience. The guest immediately gets an answer, and the guest immediately has all the information that they need, and I really think that’s really important, and I’ve definitely gotten a lot of feedback from my guests, positive feedback regarding that.

Chris:

Absolutely.

Jasper:

So, what about you? How do you do the communication?

Chris:

Yeah, I mean, a lot of times, especially now here in Bangkok… It was not the case so much in San Francisco, but here in Bangkok, they start out with a lot of questions. They want to know how close we are to the main sights, what are the transportation options. A lot of that is referenced on my Airbnb page, but people have some questions anyway, so there’s a lot of communication with that. And then, once people make the booking, I actually use a different, what I call, channel manager system because I’m integrated with a lot of the other channels for bookings, and I have communications sort of programmed in.

So, initially, there’s a confirmation. The next day there’s a welcome email, and that welcome email describes the things to expect once they’re at the airport, the best way to get to our location, and just basically… It’s actually quite a long email which I’ve wanted to shorten or do different pieces, but currently it’s still in its original form. But, it just tries to orient them to coming to Bangkok, and how to find us and what to expect.

If some of your listeners have never been to Asia, it’s quite different than the West, and you know, people can get off of the airplane and just be completely overwhelmed, and specifically around transportation options. You know, a lot of people will try to take advantage of tourists, so I try to educate them a bit around that.

So, yeah, I mean, it’s using tools because, you know, it sort of sounds like what you’re saying is, while you’re sleeping these things are happening and you still want to give good service, and you have to find the tools, the right tools to use to help you communicate, to keep everything consistent and make sure that everybody starts out at the same page.

Jasper:

Right. Are there any other tools that you use to manage everything?

Chris:

So, the one that I use is called SabeeApp, and it’s from a channel management company in Hungary. And it’s S-A-B-E-E-A-P-P. And theirs does quite a lot of stuff, so it’s the main tool that I use. And then, since it’s a hotel, I’m also on TripAdvisor, and I’ve got everything integrated with that. The other thing, since I’m a programmer, I do use a lot of tracking links so I can see what people are doing, and for that I use bit.ly, so B-I-T-dot-L-Y, and I will create these tracked links, say a link for the taxi directions on my website or to read our blog posts about taxis in Bangkok, things like that, to just see where people are clicking, what they’re interested in, as well as what they’re not interested in, and then I change those from time to time.

Jasper:

Got it, awesome. Well, we’ve been going a little longer than usual because we just had so much to talk about, but thank you very much for sharing your story. I think your story is really awesome, and maybe you can let the listeners know, one more time, if they ever go to Bangkok, where they can find you.

Chris:

Yeah, so we’re easily found on Google by searching for Kama Bangkok. That’s K-A-M-A Bangkok. Also, our website is kamabangkok.com, and we can be found on generally most of the major OTAs, like booking.com, Expedia, hotels.com. Agoda. But, you’re welcome to contact us directly or contact me directly to receive the best rates, and if you have any questions about Bangkok or traveling to Thailand, I’m happy to help you guys out.

Jasper:

Awesome. All right, Chris, thanks very much, and I’ll probably be in Bangkok at some point, so I’ll definitely hit you up.

Chris:

Absolutely.

Jasper:

And for all the listeners out there, thanks for listening. I hope you enjoyed this episode, and next week, of course, there’s another one, so see you then. Bye-bye.

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3 Comments

  1. Paul says:

    I loved this podcast! I have been running an airbnb for a little over a year and have been very profitable and I have been thinking about expanding. I would be very interested to see the numbers behind the Bangkok project. How much did it take to get into the Kama business? How much does it make monthly? Did he have to get a loan? Was it from a Bangkok bank? Is that something that Chris would be interested in sharing? I am interested in the returns received in an international city (I live in Seattle) compared to what I can get here.

    • Jasper says:

      Great you enjoyed the podcast – I’ll ask Chris if he wants to share!

    • Chris says:

      Hi Paul, I’m glad you enjoyed the podcast. I’m happy to talk numbers with you privately. But what I will say is that one of the main reasons I did this is that the initial capital requirement was so much lower than in the states and I didn’t need to borrow money. Currently, I’m satisfied with the returns so far. Things could always be better but I’m stoked I have my personal freedom…that’s priceless 😉

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