Airbnb recently unveiled two new programs as part of its campaign to provide a listing that suits everyone: Airbnb Beyond and Airbnb Plus. These programs indicate a significant shift in Airbnb's core offering; this is no longer a company leaning on air mattresses and breakfast to make rent. It's a polished, professional site offering polished, professional inventory. Or at least driving the trend towards it.
This maturation does not come without growing pains, particularly for those hosts that gravitate towards the "couch share" version of Airbnb. Many people are hosts purely as a side gig; as a way to supplement income. For this average host, how much would it cost to join the program, and would it be worth it?
Based on our research, we estimate the investment to meet the requirements is $1,338. Adding in the one time $149 application fee, the total cost is $1,487. At first look, it seems like a lot- however admittance to the Plus program is not without its perks.
...but what if you don't care? What if you're perfectly happy with how you're running your small business and have no interest in joining Airbnb Plus? How much will you be affected?
Quite a bit, actually.
The Modern Short Term Rental Industry
Vacation rental, or hotel bed? Should you be able to tell?
The short term rental industry has long been trending toward growth & maturation. It is no longer a question of when, but how. Up until this point, it looked as if the vacation rental market would need to become more like hotels in order to remain competitive. In the game of chess that is vacation rentals vs. hotels, hotels were/are making the bold moves across the board, both big and small. Multiple hotel chains took steps to diversify their brands to provide an experience that competed with the individuality of a single property. To cut the time table of coming up with a new brand themselves, many took a shortcut. Big names began acquiring smaller boutique hotels whose branding they felt would play well. Other hotels took the direct approach and loudly began moving into the vacation rental space with AccorHotels acquiring Onefinestay, Hyatt investing large sums in Oasis, and Marriott launching a trial (that will undoubtedly go well) with Hostmaker.
The takeaway from this is that property managers' worry that their personalized space in the market would disappear; that they would be forced to commercialize; was well founded. Airbnb adding programs full of requirements most likely exacerbated that anxiety...but it shouldn't.
Instead of sitting back and watching hotels sweep the market off its feet, these programs by Airbnb and a few others are an adept parry. By actively encouraging hosts to improve the quality of their listings and providing incentives to do so, it increases the competitive advantage of the individual vacation rental without stomping out its personality. The program essentially ensures the survival of the individual host; it gives individual properties with niche vibes a fighting chance.
There are many other readings into these strategies. The biggest of which is that instead of viewing these moves as "vacation rentals VS hotels", they're merely the slow process of the two subsets of the short term rental industry combining into one. For the sake of this post though, suffice it to say that due in large part to Airbnb Plus & Beyond, the industry has maintained a way for individual properties to thrive with only some changes. Which leads us to our next point.
The Impact on Everyday Hosts/Property Managers
Being direct: hosting will not be as easy. Airbnb Plus is the sign everyone has been waiting for that the days of idly hosting your couch or spare bedroom and making money hand over fist are coming to a close. Guests expect more: they want a hybrid of a local experience with hotel professionalism. They want to wander quaint villages and then return to a neighborhood home that is spotlessly clean, has crisp white sheets, and complimentary coffee.
"A rising tide raises all sea faring ships. There is a place for those that operate as a truly competitive, sophisticated business to succeed. If you think this is same industry you got into where you thought it was an easy job, and you could cream off 40% commissions, you will not survive. You will drown."
Before the anxiety sets in again, consider the fact that the Airbnb Plus criteria is actually an itemized list of how to succeed in the evolving market. As a host or property manager, you can continue to market your property's individuality; you can continue competing with local hotel rooms; you can continue making a sizable income per month; provided you make some adjustments. The one hard truth as part of these adjustments: couch sharing is being phased out. The majority of travelers are looking to at least have a private room.
So, at long last, is joining the Airbnb Plus program worth it? It depends.
If you're a host that is only looking to make a couple bucks for the next 3 months...no. It's not. Investing near $1500 on listing short term would have you operating at a deficit.
If you're a host that loves what they do and is in it for the long term...yes, absolutely! If you're lacking bookings, being a part of this exclusive program would not only place you higher in Airbnb's search rankings, but would also put you in a category all your own. Plus members would be part of 1.67% of listings. Due to the prestige of the program, you would be able to charge as much as 150% more for your listing. This exclusivity and vouch from Airbnb would also breed interest, causing an increase in bookings. TL;DR? Though this looks like a lot of money upfront, you would quickly recover it and subsequently make more. Investing in meeting the criteria will take you to the next level and ensure your survival in the growing vacation rental industry. You will be part of those sea faring ships, with the profitability to match.