As the travel industry has evolved, Airbnb has grown along with it. What began as a platform for individuals to share their homes has expanded into an inclusive hosting space that embraces property managers. Together, hosting experts and Airbnb created a dynamic vacation rental landscape, following a journey from listening to conducting extensive research and working with the Vacation Rental Management Association (VRMA).
The ever-changing future of travel was on the minds of so many who attended VRMA International in Las Vegas in October 2018. At the conference, we hosted multiple conversations with property managers, and a handful of key observations came to the forefront. Here are our insights:
The industry is evolving quickly
We noticed the same thing PMs did at VRMA International: the growing presence of venture capital groups, private equity firms, online travel agencies, and global travel industry consultants among the 1,700 attendees. With so many new faces, property managers were curious to know what Airbnb’s intentions were. One property manager asked: “What type of future are you thinking about? What are your motives behind where this is going?”
Property managers have been in the vacation rental business for generations and deserve to take part in shaping the industry for the future. Airbnb’s role is to help them do this, by sharing research and information the company has and providing insights on the shifting industry. We view the future as an opportunity to help property managers grow their businesses and partner directly to define this future together.
Property managers and OTAs
Property managers have made it clear: Online travel agencies (OTAs) have greatly impacted business—for better or worse. One property manager described OTAs as a “necessary evil, in a way, but it’s part of business … we do see the benefit of guests booking directly through us, rather than an OTA, because we make more money that way.”
There’s a growing reliance on OTAs and third-party listing sites. On one hand, they help showcase properties to a larger audience. On the other hand, many take large commissions for doing so. Airbnb believes in strong, long-lasting partnerships, and that includes welcoming property managers into our global community. We strive to be a partner—not just a distribution channel—and to help property managers grow their businesses.
Trust is key
Property managers want a trusted partner, not a boss. “We’re handing over, in a lot of ways, the keys to our business, and it’s an important partnership—we rely on your policies,” a property manager told us. Many property managers shared stories of OTAs making changes without notifying them, and that influenced whether some property managers would work with them again.
Property managers are an indispensable part of Airbnb’s success. We have deferred to property managers’ expertise to evolve our platform and better support hosts with multiple listings. In every great partnership, communication is crucial. A property manager at the conference said it best: “Don’t just roll out new terms and conditions, add a new little widget somewhere. Tell us, hey, you heard us … and then close the loop.” That’s good advice—and we plan to stick to it.
Growing concerns of commoditization
The vacation rental industry was built on local expertise and unique experiences, but it can be difficult to stand out in an increasingly crowded space. “Help me set my properties apart from all the rest,” one property manager told us.
Airbnb was built around properties with a point of view, design, and entrepreneurship—a natural fit for small businesses and property managers. Our shared passion and mission to provide distinct guest experiences make Airbnb all the more committed to help individual brands shine. We’ve launched programs like Airbnb Plus to showcase professional hosting amenities, created the ability for property managers to create customizable pages, and provided merchandising opportunities.
Technology can improve operations
One property manager told us that the main challenge with technology lies in “the amount of time it takes to integrate, and the amount of time it takes just for us to take advantage of some of the tools that are on Airbnb when you are an integrated manager.” We know property managers have multiple systems to connect, and so far there’s no one software that meets all of their complex business needs.
Airbnb is invested in developing a better solution. We’ve already created a suite of professional tools that integrate with a global network of software providers, and we’re focused on building more tools and features that are not only easy to use, but also meet the complex business needs of property managers.
What's next from Airbnb
“I’ve watched you guys grow up; I’ve grown up with you. That has been a fairly recent shift, but I’ve noticed it, and I do appreciate that,” one property manager said. As much progress as we’ve made toward understanding the industry and evolving our platform to better support the needs of property managers, we know there is more we can do to become even better partners.
Transparency and authenticity are important to us—and Airbnb will be sure to keep property managers in the loop, listen to their concerns, and work together to ensure our platform works for them. Together, Airbnb and property managers can build an ecosystem to adapt to growing businesses and evolve with the ever-changing travel industry.
Information contained in this article may have changed since publication.