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Taking on Airbnb... Would you do it?

Monica Rose

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Apr 14, 2019
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Maui, Hawaii
I was poking around the Airbnb host community forum recently for some unrelated research, and was surprised to discover a lot of unhappy hosts. I was previously unaware, but it seems that the company has quite a reputation for giving their hosts the short end of the stick with customer service (the hosts are customers too). Here are just a few quotes that show what I'm referring to

"....and that's exactly how Airbnb get away with their abusive and exploitative policies and practices - they've instilled a pervasive culture of fear and trepidation throughout the entire host community, and everyone is too scared to stand up for their rights, lest they be penalised/jettisoned from the platform. Always have a Plan B. Airbnb is not the only game in town anymore. Far from it."

"This is horrible @Sarah959. I've read quite a few stories like yours now and it makes me angry and sad. Are you listing on other platforms?"

"Even the supervisor was rude and abrupt. I don't know what is going on with Airbnb, at one time they had very good customer service, but as of late it has changed. I have been with Airbnb since they started, and it has certainly changed."

"I agree with you (I have been hosting for 6 years). The Superhost badge used to give me faster and better service. I had an issue last week. I had to wait 15 minutes each call and I had to follow up 4 times. Me and my guest ended up solving the issue without customer service!"

"Eighty per cent of Host’s are being exploited by Airbnb whether they realise it or not, you have awoken from the Airbnb BS and propaganda, unfortunately, this awakening was not as the consequence of a kiss on the lips from a Prince, but rather from a goblin that wants to steal our gold. Hopefully, more host will realise that Airbnb is undervaluing there homes and hospitality and take corrective action as I did. The only pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is for Airbnb’s top brass and Host need to wake up."


Now, it's entirely possible that this is a highly skewed sample of the overall host population, as it's more likely that people will take the time to rant about having negative experiences vs. positive ones, but, considering I'm in the middle of listening to TMF, and just yesterday was listening to the difference between customer service that SUCKS and customer service that SUCS, it made me wonder if the general unhappiness that many Airbnb hosts are feeling, would leave enough room for a brand new competitor to come in and do well. My feeling is that this would be very difficult with Airbnb's market share, but I don't generally like to rule anything out as impossible.

When searching Google for "Airbnb's competitors" I found this list The only companies that I was familiar with here were VRBO and HomeAway, but it sounds like there are a few others doing ok, particularly in Europe.

So, I am wondering people's opinions on this... Specifically does anyone think that it could be done? Or that it would be a worthwhile endeavor?
 

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MHP368

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And VRBO had first player advantage , seems to not mean much (anyone remember myepace?)

Id say if you were serious about this then coordinating it in one community (maybe with a high level of people hosting who hate airbnb) might be the way to go.

I feel like enough competition already exists that this ideas dead in the water though.

What do the reviews look like for the airbnb competitors you found?
 
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Monica Rose

Monica Rose

Bronze Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Apr 14, 2019
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123
Maui, Hawaii
And VRBO had first player advantage , seems to not mean much (anyone remember myepace?)

Id say if you were serious about this then coordinating it in one community (maybe with a high level of people hosting who hate airbnb) might be the way to go.

I feel like enough competition already exists that this ideas dead in the water though.

What do the reviews look like for the airbnb competitors you found?
1) You're absolutely right about the first player advantage.

2) Maybe the disgruntled hosts should unionize? :blush:

3) Tripping.com has an interesting business model, as they partner with other booking and vacation rental sites and aggregate the data from those sites in one place. They make money by receiving 50% of the booking fees charged by the other companies https://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/news/2016/12/14/sf-vacation-rental-booking-startup-tripping.html

Personally, I hope to capitalize off the growing vacation rental market in a different way. By becoming the "go-to" source in both Canada and the USA for high-quality towels and linens built specifically for the hospitality industry. We already do this really well for our current vacation rental owner customers (and property management companies), but are thinking much bigger. Stay tuned :)
 

404profound

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I see you're in HI, have you seen any HI-specific Airbnb complaints? You would know the market better than them, being a resident. Maybe you could to a niched HI version? Either way, that is a massive undertaking from a human capital perspective, but the opportunity is dressed as hard work, etc etc
 
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Monica Rose

Monica Rose

Bronze Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Apr 14, 2019
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Maui, Hawaii
I see you're in HI, have you seen any HI-specific Airbnb complaints? You would know the market better than them, being a resident. Maybe you could to a niched HI version? Either way, that is a massive undertaking from a human capital perspective, but the opportunity is dressed as hard work, etc etc
The biggest issue here in HI is with zoning. Most municipalities are very strict on short term rental guidelines unless your property is a condominium, and zoned accordingly. Nearly 10 years ago, Maui county (where I live) had a major crackdown on unauthorized vacation rentals. They instituted severe fines for violators, and have people that monitor sites like Airbnb, VRBO, and even Craigslist, to search for these listings. Soon after, they created a legal path to licensing, where you can apply for a "Short Term Rental Home" permit if you meet certain criteria. The criteria are quite stringent, and a pain in the @$$ process for homeowners going down this road. The process can take up to a year or even longer sometimes. Years ago I worked for an architect, who during the economic downturn, padded his income by offering homeowners a package where he would handle this permit application process on their behalf. I was the one doing most of the legwork on these applications and it was often very complicated which allowed him to charge a premium for the service of navigating the County's requirements. https://www.mauicounty.gov/DocumentCenter/View/79192/STRH-Does-My-Property-Qualify--revJune-5-2012?bidId=

There are a ton of vacation rentals here on the island, but they are for the overwhelming majority, condos that are automatically zoned for short-term rental use. In my experience most of them are advertising on VRBO rather than Airbnb.

I do have another business in mind (passion project) that is Hawaii specific. I am still clarifying my vision for it, but will likely post something on that soon. It's food related, so a totally different market.
 

reedracer

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You are doing it right, @Monica Rose - selling shovels to the gold rush. I've been thinking about ways to tap into the services to AirBnB type owners a bit. I just took a trip to Nashville and had a wonderful host then went to Ohio and had a pretty abysmal host. I really had to think hard about not giving a 5 star review, but he really was a bad host who lied about the accommodations. He knows we were not happy and has not posted a review about us so our review doesn't post.

Anyhow there has to be tons of Fastlane opportunities without being the newe AirBnB, although someone aggregating AirBnB type rentals, plus Kayak hotels would be a good score.

Another would be creating and selling packages with car, flight, rooms, and tours.

A couple things I though of on the shovels side:
Help setting up a home for renting and living.

Run a cleaning/management service for rentals scale to multiple cities

I had not even considered linens. There's selling the linens, but you could also offer a premium linen service - supply an array of linens from basic to luxury for a basic fee for x number a nights a month, a little additional if they go over that. Base this on average occupancy rates over the past year.

Maybe a luxury bottle/food service for people who would appreciate such.
 

Roli

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I was poking around the Airbnb host community forum recently for some unrelated research, and was surprised to discover a lot of unhappy hosts. I was previously unaware, but it seems that the company has quite a reputation for giving their hosts the short end of the stick with customer service (the hosts are customers too). Here are just a few quotes that show what I'm referring to

"....and that's exactly how Airbnb get away with their abusive and exploitative policies and practices - they've instilled a pervasive culture of fear and trepidation throughout the entire host community, and everyone is too scared to stand up for their rights, lest they be penalised/jettisoned from the platform. Always have a Plan B. Airbnb is not the only game in town anymore. Far from it."

"This is horrible @Sarah959. I've read quite a few stories like yours now and it makes me angry and sad. Are you listing on other platforms?"

"Even the supervisor was rude and abrupt. I don't know what is going on with Airbnb, at one time they had very good customer service, but as of late it has changed. I have been with Airbnb since they started, and it has certainly changed."

"I agree with you (I have been hosting for 6 years). The Superhost badge used to give me faster and better service. I had an issue last week. I had to wait 15 minutes each call and I had to follow up 4 times. Me and my guest ended up solving the issue without customer service!"

"Eighty per cent of Host’s are being exploited by Airbnb whether they realise it or not, you have awoken from the Airbnb BS and propaganda, unfortunately, this awakening was not as the consequence of a kiss on the lips from a Prince, but rather from a goblin that wants to steal our gold. Hopefully, more host will realise that Airbnb is undervaluing there homes and hospitality and take corrective action as I did. The only pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is for Airbnb’s top brass and Host need to wake up."


Now, it's entirely possible that this is a highly skewed sample of the overall host population, as it's more likely that people will take the time to rant about having negative experiences vs. positive ones, but, considering I'm in the middle of listening to TMF, and just yesterday was listening to the difference between customer service that SUCKS and customer service that SUCS, it made me wonder if the general unhappiness that many Airbnb hosts are feeling, would leave enough room for a brand new competitor to come in and do well. My feeling is that this would be very difficult with Airbnb's market share, but I don't generally like to rule anything out as impossible.

When searching Google for "Airbnb's competitors" I found this list The only companies that I was familiar with here were VRBO and HomeAway, but it sounds like there are a few others doing ok, particularly in Europe.

So, I am wondering people's opinions on this... Specifically does anyone think that it could be done? Or that it would be a worthwhile endeavor?
There are others here in Europe that are competing, however as far as I'm aware they all have millions of euros behind them. So not impossible to take them on, just very expensive.

I'm guessing most people are happy with Air bnb, they are growing month on month.

I'm never staying in a hotel again!
 

YanC

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What would you do differently that brings value to your customers?

I'm doing short term rentals and mostly the only thing I care about is how many guests these platforms bring me and how much is their commission. Otherwise I feel like they are all the same, haven't had any issue with any of them so far (after 8 months). I use all those that perform so as to lower my reliance on any one of them . Airbnb only accounts for around 35% of my customer base these days. Booking.com is a huge one, at least here in Europe.
 

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