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EP140: This Week in the World of Airbnb

Airbnb’s mission statement asserts that one can “belong anywhere.” But because of the company’s disruption of the travel industry, some cities have implied that Airbnb itself is unwelcome – through strict regulations and ongoing legal battles.

This week in the news, we see evidence that Airbnb is finding new ways to work with city governments and nonprofits to both improve their image and impact social change.

Jasper is joined by Hostfully’s Head of Marketing, Silvia Li, to discuss Airbnb’s partnership with the city of San Francisco to combat homelessness. They also cover the company’s efforts to diversify beyond their core product as they expand into other areas of the travel space, specifically exploring the Airbnb Trips product. Listen and learn how Experiences hosts feel about the ‘experience’ thus far… And find out about Jasper’s submission to host a tour in Amsterdam!

Topics Covered

Article #1: Airbnb Teams Up with SF Giants to Help Homeless Families

  • Donate $1,000 for every home run scored by team
  • Hamilton Families Center as beneficiary
  • 1,145 homeless families in the city (1,800 children)
  • Goal to place 800 families in homes by 2019
  • Mends relationship with city
  • Supports social impact aspect of Airbnb mission

Article #2: This is What Airbnb Trips Hosts Really Think of Airbnb’s Newest Product

  • Trips is part of effort to diversify (in response to investors)
  • Smart to add service to platform for travelers
  • Experiences are extremely curated
  • Airbnb supporting hosts with branding, marketing and ad $
  • 800 Experiences available to book (up 60% since November)
  • 59% of bookings in San Francisco were made by locals
  • Homes product will eventually account for less than half of revenue

Resources Mentioned

Silvia’s Go Fund Me Page for Peru Mudslide Victims

Article #1: cnet.com/news/airbnb-teams-up-with-sf-giants-to-help-homeless-families-find-homes

Article #2: skift.com/2017/03/27/this-is-what-airbnb-trips-hosts-really-think-of-airbnbs-newest-product


Connect with Jasper

Email: jasper@getpaidforyourpad.com

Twitter: @GetPaidForUrPad

Instagram: @GetPaidForYourPad 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/getpaidforyourpad

This episode is sponsored by Aviva IQ. Aviva IQ automates messages to your Airbnb guests. It's also free!

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Complete Transcript for Get Paid for Your Pad Episode 140

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: Before learning about Aviva IQ, I used to spend so much time managing my guest communications manually. Now, with Aviva IQ’s easy-to-use automated service, my workload has reduced by 80%. Did I mention it’s free? Automate your Airbnb messages now at www.avivaiq.com.

Welcome to another episode of Get Paid For Your Pad in which I discuss the news, together with my cohost, Silvia Li. Silvia, how’s it going?

Silvia: Good, Jasper. How are you doing? Thank you so much for having me again in the podcast.

Jasper: Yeah, well, I’m very sad to hear that this is going to be your last appearance.

Silvia: Yes. This is actually the last time that I’ll be chatting with you on the podcast. I’m actually joining a non-profit to pursue a passion that I’ve always had for education, and I’m starting that next week. And it’s something that I also look forward to, but at the same time, I’m really sad to leave Hostfully and record the podcast with you because it’s been so much fun.

Jasper: It has been. And what exactly are you going to do?

Silvia: Well, so, a little bit about the non-profit. It’s called XQ Institute, and basically what the XQ Institute does is, they’re trying to redesign how high schools in the U.S. operate. So, we have selected more than 10 schools out of 20,000 applicants in the U.S., where we’re trying to support a different type of curriculum, helping these students, specifically in high school, to think differently, not only have a better IQ or EQ, but also be better critical thinkers, decision makers. And my role, specifically, is to go to these schools and literally tell stories about them, and show the importance of education and how it can change the world.

Jasper: Wow, that’s pretty impressive. Congratulations.

Silvia: Thank you. Thank you.

Jasper: I’m sure you’ll be having a great time, and you’ll be missed, but not yet, because today we’re going to go through some of the news stories that have come out in regards to Airbnb.

I just got back from a kitesurfing trip, by the way. I’m in Santiago right now, and I have a friend who is a very enthusiastic kitesurfer. And I’ve always wanted to try it, and so I got the opportunity on Thursday. I drove up to a place about a five- or six-hour drive from Santiago. It’s in the middle of nowhere in Chile, and it’s one of the driest places in the world. It only rains like four days per year, on average, which is pretty insane.

Silvia: It’s not Atacama, right?

Jasper: No, no, no, it’s not Atacama. It’s an area called Valle del Elqui, and it’s a really dry area, but they do have a lot of vineyards there, a lot of wineries. And in order to supply those wineries with water, they’ve built a dam, and so a lake, an artificial lake was created. And because it’s a valley and it’s not too far from the Pacific Ocean, there’s a really constant breeze going through the valley, so it’s actually a perfect place to go kitesurfing. And because it never rains, you know, there’s no clouds, just, the sun basically always shines.

Silvia: Right.

Jasper: And so, yeah, I had a pretty good time. It’s pretty difficult, I have to say, to stand up on the board. I had nine hours of lessons, and most of the lessons were about controlling the kite, but I was hoping to stand up in the end. But, it turned out to be too much of a challenge, so hopefully, next time I go, I’ll be able to cruise the lake on my kitesurfing board.

Silvia: That’s amazing. So, does your friend do this for fun, or does he do it as a job? Does he do it full-time?

Jasper: No, no. She just does it for fun.

Silvia: Oh, wow. That’s awesome.

Jasper: But, actually, my instructor was a pretty cool guy. He’s the kitesurfing champion of Chile, so I was definitely in good hands.

Silvia: Right, right, right. You could trust him.

Jasper: Exactly.

Anyway, let’s get into the Airbnb news of this week. So, what do you think is the most interesting story for this week?

Silvia: Well, I think one of the most interesting things, that we chatted about before, was that Airbnb is partnering up with the city of San Francisco and the SF Giants to actually provide help to the homeless for every homerun that happens for the SF Giants. For those who don’t know what SF Giants is, it’s actually the San Francisco local baseball team. And I think that’s something amazing that they’re doing, and at the same time, they’re working with the government and local officials to improve their relationship. So, I think that’s something that we’ll see more as Airbnb keeps working with local officials and non-profits. That’s part of their mission.

Jasper: Is it part of their mission or is it part of an effort to sort of clean up their image in these cities?

Silvia: Well, I think it’s both. I think they definitely have really good intentions, but at the same time, as you might say, it’s a smart move, right. It tackles both things, the social impact side. I think they’ve always tried to do something good for people that don’t have much, but at the same time, they are trying to clean up their image to local officials. I think, as the article mentioned, that they’re IPO-ing sometime in the next two years, and they want to make sure they have a really good relationship with everyone.

Jasper: That’s right. And, I guess, if they’re going to spend money on charity, then the homeless people would be the most obvious recipients of the charity, right, as they’re in the home space.

Silvia: Yeah, totally. Totally. I think, well, especially in San Francisco, the distribution of wealth, the gap is pretty huge. You know, on one side of San Francisco, you’ll see folks that make $150,000 per year, plus, and on the other side, you’ll see people in the streets asking for money. So, I mean, that’s something that unfortunately happens, and it’s been happening for the last decades, and we, as part of this industry, we ought to do something about it.

Jasper: Right. And it always surprised me, by the way, when I visit San Francisco, because it’s such a rich city, right, and I’m reading here that there’s 1,145 homeless families with 1,800 children. And the start-up that Airbnb is cooperating with is called Hamilton Families. They hope to place 800 of these families in homes by 2019. So then, there’s still 345 left.

Silvia: Right, right. I’m not sure if they will make local officials happier, but this is something that, you know, at least they are trying to do, and it will help someone, which is great. And I think they’re not only doing it in cities that need it, like San Francisco and New York, but also, they’re trying to help disadvantaged people in countries where there are a lot of problems right now.

So, I think the example that I gave you was that, in Peru, a lot of things are happening because there have been a lot of mudslides. There’s a place in Peru where there’s not much rain, but this year specifically, it’s been raining a lot, so literally, cities and families have lost their homes, and actually, Airbnb turned on one of the features where you can host someone for free because they’re trying to help them.

So, yeah, those small things really matter, and it shows that they really care about people in their community, and they’re trying to do social good, if that makes sense.

Jasper: Yeah. I saw that you posted on Facebook about the mudslides, right?

Silvia: Yeah, so I’m actually raising $10,000 to support all these families that have lost a lot of money. So, so far, I’ve raised almost $4,000 in four days, so that’s pretty good, I think. And I hope to reach that goal, to be able to help all these families to get clean clothes, get fresh water, get food, and buy them, maybe, even health kits because a lot of the women and children don’t have diapers and don’t have the necessary cleaning supplies to clean themselves, if that makes sense.

Jasper: So, that would be a nice goodbye present if I can help you raise this money. So, if people want to donate, how can they get in touch with you?

Silvia: Yeah, so the link to the GoFundMe campaign is gofundme.com/peruvictims. So, if you go there, even if you donate $5, that will help, literally, a kid to have access to 15 bottles of water of one liter. That will be enough for, literally, three or four days of fresh water. So, if anyone wants to help out in this cause, go to gofundme.com/peruvictims. Any help is appreciated, and even if you just share the link, that will help us spread the word and more people would know about it.

Jasper: Awesome. And we will put that in the show notes, as well, so people can find the link there.

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Let’s go to the next topic. There was a very long article on Skift, which is a website that I’ve been starting to look more at since we interviewed Deanna Ting, who’s a reporter for Skift, a while ago. I started to check out the site more and more, and they often have really interesting articles.

So, this article talks about the new trips feature that Airbnb has launched about six months ago. And not only do they have some interesting numbers, but they also interviewed seven people who provide experiences, and they asked them for their experience of the Airbnb experience so far, which is pretty interesting, you know, because a lot of people are wondering whether this is going to be a success, whether Airbnb’s trying to tackle and trying to enter a market that they shouldn’t enter and they should focus on their core business. And some people are saying that it's a very obvious and natural extension of what they’re doing since they already have such a large number of people on their platform, so that it will be easy for them to sort of market all these new products to them.

So, it’s an interesting article. And what are your thoughts?

Silvia: I honestly think that trips and experiences are something that definitely is a huge market, that’s the first thing, and it’s definitely smart of them to tackle that. I think somewhere in the article it said that, well, Airbnb’s core product, homes, will account for less than half of the company’s total revenue someday, which I think he estimates it being by 2021. And this totally, totally makes so much sense.

I mean, just, if I think about the small tours that you’ve done in every city, you literally, if you were going with your family, you spend almost $1,000 on just going on a cruise…not even a cruise, going on a boat ride for a day if you go to Hawaii. And, I mean, if Airbnb has the travellers, the audience that will pay for this and they’re doing it through different sources, I think it’s really smart for them to just put it in one place and have us, the travellers, book everything at once.

I think it’s a market that hasn’t been changing much. Usually, you have to go online, go to a really outdated site, and then book something, or you have to call them. And, I mean, having a platform where I can find everything and just click one thing, and just be able to book it, and you don’t have to even negotiate a price and it’s a transparent price, I think that makes me feel a little more comfortable and it’s something that, as a traveller, I would like to see more, especially if it’s trips and experiences guided by locals which have been living there for a while.

But, what are your thoughts about it?

Jasper: Well, there’s a few interesting facts in this article. First of all, and you mentioned to me that, I think, somebody tweeted about this, but 59% of the bookers of the trips so far, of the experiences, are locals. In San Francisco, this was, I believe, right?

Silvia: Right. Right, yeah. And that’s a pretty… I mean, when I first read it, I was really surprised, 59% of San Francisco locals are the ones booking these experiences. And, honestly, it makes sense to me because, after I read that tweet, I actually went through their experiences, and I actually never took the time to sit down and check out everything they offer, but once I did, I was like, “Oh, wow, there are a lot of things that I don’t know about my city, and I’ve been living here for quite a while, and I haven’t done a lot of these things.”

You know, if I’m spending money on doing all this rental stuff to have fun, I could just save some money and then just spend it on doing experiences. And I can see a lot of people just trying to get to know their city even more, compared to a tourist who will probably do the touristy stuff because they’ve never seen those before. But, that 59% is a huge number, so I wonder if, in other cities, that the percentage is as big.

Jasper: Yeah, I was also surprised, initially, when I saw the number, but, like you said, it kind of makes sense because there’s this weird thing that when you live in a city, for some reason, you don’t do “touristy” things because you don’t associate yourself with a tourist, right?

Silvia: Right, right.

Jasper: And which is kind of a weird psychological thing, right?

Silvia: Yes, yes.

Jasper: Because, I mean, why wouldn’t you do certain things, or why wouldn’t you go see certain things, or have certain experiences just because tourists have those experiences? I mean, it doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Like, if you think about it, you would think that the people that live in the cities, that they’re the first ones to go and see all the highlights, and go to all the museums, and all that kind of stuff.

But, for example, I’m a very good example of this because, you know, I’ve lived in Holland for a long time, and the number one tourist attraction in Holland is a place called the Keukenhof. It’s basically a bunch of flowers, but there’s millions of people who literally come to Holland to look at these flowers, and so it must be something interesting, but I’ve never been. It’s kind of weird.

Silvia: Yeah, it’s kind of weird, because I definitely feel the same way, and every time someone visits, then I am forced to go to, for instance, I live in San Francisco, so we go to the Golden Gate, but if it wasn’t for a friend that is visiting, I would never ever go there. I mean, not only because I’ve been there once or twice, but also, it’s just crowded.

And, I mean, it’s tiring to have to spend all your time going to touristy places, but I guess, with trips and experiences, it’s a little bit different because, although they offer things to do in touristy places, they also offer you things to do that are completely different from things you’ve seen before, like maybe cooking classes of random cuisines of people that live in the city that, you know, they just want to show you what it’s like to be a San Franciscan. And maybe you’re like a Chinese-American family that moved to San Francisco a long time ago, this is what they eat, and it might be completely different from going to a Chinese restaurant.

So, I think those are things that a lot of people value, especially if you’ve been living in the city for a while and you’ve never heard of these things, and you know, you just want to be adventurous and you just want to try out new things.

Jasper: Right. And, you know, I’ve actually created my own experience in Amsterdam.

Silvia: Oh, really?

Jasper: Yeah. I thought, you know, “Well, why not? Let’s try it.” And one thing I noticed is that it’s extremely curated, and this is what this article talks about, as well, is that, initially, they signed up… I can’t remember how many it was. Apparently, they have 800 experiences now, which is a 60% increase since November. So, it must have been around 500. Did I calculate that correctly? Yeah, 500 plus 60% is 800.

So, they started with 500, and not only did Airbnb contact, proactively contact hosts that they wanted to recruit for these experiences, they also sent their Airbnb employees to test them out, because if you read the interviews in the article, all the hosts, the experience hosts, they all say that the first couple of people that joined the tour, they were all Airbnb employees. So, I thought that was quite funny.

Silvia: Yeah, yeah. I think what I was super-surprised of…well, not surprised, but more like, “Wow, that’s amazing,” is how much they’ve supported these experience hosts, where Airbnb employees are helping out with their branding, marketing. They are even hiring influencers and putting out money into these experiences, which makes sense, but you know, as someone that, like for instance you, if you’re hosting an experience, wouldn’t it be amazing if someone just comes and helps you get an audience without you having to do much?

And, I mean, obviously, they have a lot of money to spend and they have a lot of talent, but I think that’s something that helps the hosts a lot, the experience hosts. And when I looked at their branding, I was really, really impressed. I was like, “Oh, wow, this looks like something I really want to do and pursue, and I was wondering, like, “Oh, I wonder who did all the marketing,” because it’s just beautiful and amazing. So, pumps to Airbnb for doing that.

Jasper: Yeah, and it shows how important this is to Airbnb because, as we talked about before, Airbnb’s getting a lot of pressure from investors to kind of show that they can make money in other areas than just home-sharing. So, I guess it’s very important to them and they’re definitely putting a lot of effort into making it a success, which is, I think, the right move because, you know, when you enter a new market, it’s pretty difficult to be successful, right.

I mean, if you look, there’s some pretty good examples in the past where big companies were very successful doing one thing, then tried to do something else, and they put a lot of money into it, but they completely failed. I mean, Amazon Fire Phone comes to mind, Google Plus, and these are big companies with a lot of money, a lot of expertise, but they failed.

So, I think Airbnb is probably aware of that, and they’re really doing everything they can to make it a success. And I guess they’re gaining some traction, as the amount of experience hosts has increased quite a bit, and also, I think they started with 12 cities, and now they’re in 51.

Silvia: Right.

Jasper: So, I think Amsterdam hasn’t officially launched yet because, you know, I submitted my application, and then they told me they would get back to me within two weeks, and now it’s been a week and a half or so, so I haven’t heard anything from them.

Silvia: Yeah. What’s the experience you submitted?

Jasper: So, you know, you mentioned earlier that the cool thing about these experiences is that you do things that are a bit different, that people wouldn’t kind of think about themselves. So, what I did is, since this is for Amsterdam, I figured I’d do something outside of Amsterdam, so I put up a tour to the city where I was born. Well, I wasn’t born there, but close to the city where I was born, it’s called Arnhem.

And there was a famous battle in the Second World War called Operation Market Garden, the battle for Arnhem, and it was a very important battle that the Allies unfortunately lost, but there’s a movie about it, “A Bridge Too Far”, and there’s a really cool museum where you can sort of relive the experience. And so, I figured I’d take people on the train and we’d go to the museum, and then we’d actually go to the areas in the city where most of the fighting took place.

There’s a famous bridge called the John Frost Bridge that is very famous because John Frost was one of the guys that held out the longest in defending the bridge, because the goal of the operation was to capture all the bridges so that the Allies could drive into Germany. And so, he held on to this bridge for a very long time, which made him quite famous.

Anyway, so I thought it would be a little bit different because if you go to Amsterdam, then you probably don’t think of going to Arnhem. Most people have probably never heard of it. But, yeah, I think it’s a really cool museum, and especially for older people. You know, we get a lot of Canadians, we get a lot of Americans, and a lot of veterans are still coming to Holland to commemorate that battle, although the numbers are going down because it’s so long ago that there’s not that many veterans that are still alive. But, still, there’s some historic connection between our country and the U.S. and Canada, and my city, so I thought that would be a cool experience to offer. What do you think?

Silvia: I think that would be interesting. It’s different. That’s the first thing that comes to my mind, and for someone that is just very interested in how history affects identity and culture, I mean, I would definitely be interested in seeing something like that. So, I mean, I look forward to that. I hope they approve this, and then I look forward to actually seeing it on Airbnb because, I mean, I’ve never been to Amsterdam or Holland. So, I’m planning to do a trip to Europe in the upcoming year, hopefully, and I look forward to going to Amsterdam, so you can give me some recommendations and I can check out some of the experiences.

Jasper: Absolutely.

All right, Silvia, we’re getting to the end of the episode, so thank you very much for co-hosting this episode with me, and I’ll definitely miss you. And good luck with your future ventures.

Silvia: Thank you so much. I mean, I love the show, and the Airbnb community is amazing, and I think we will see a lot of things coming up. And, of course, the world of Airbnb will keep going every Thursday.

Jasper: Absolutely.

Silvia: So, everyone, keep in touch, and we’ll look forward to hearing more about you guys.

Jasper: Awesome.

And before I let everybody go, I wanted to mention that I’m pretty active on Instagram, and I started featuring different Airbnb listings from all around the world because, you know, people are posting a lot of really cool pictures of their Airbnb listings, and so I feature some sometimes, and now I’ve been getting some requests from people to post their pictures on my Instagram account, as I’m getting more and more followers. So, I have about 6,500 or so, and pictures often get 200 to 250 likes, and people really seem to enjoy this, so I figured I’d do a shout-out.

So, if you want your Airbnb listing to be featured, all you need to do is just follow Get Paid For Your Pad on Instagram, and then post a picture, the picture that you want me to feature. Post it, and then just give it a hashtag – #getpaidforyourpad – because that way I can simply search for the hashtag, and then I can see all the different pictures that have been put up by people who want to be featured.

Awesome. This is the end of the episode, so thank you for listening, and hopefully, next week, we’ll be back with another one. Bye-bye.