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Airbnb is making its most highly rated and reviewed hosts, and arguably one of its most valuable assets, the centerpiece of its latest marketing efforts.
The San Francisco-based homesharing giant, which has more than five million listings in 81,000 cities worldwide, plans to celebrate its more than 600,000 Superhosts with a series of marketing initiatives, as well as an entire Superhost week beginning December 10.
The marketing push comes amid growing speculation that Airbnb will take itself public in 2019, in what would be one of the travel industry’s most anticipated IPOs.
To become an Airbnb Superhost, a host must host at least 10 trips and have an average rating of more than 4.8 out 5 stars,. Most have hosted, on average, for a total of 140 nights.
The company reported that the number of Superhosts it has more than doubled since 2017, and that Superhosts earn 22 percent more than other hosts, and have been responsible for approximately 150 million out of 400 million guest arrivals since the company’s inception in 2008.
In February, at a press event where CEO Brian Chesky unveiled Airbnb’s newest product, Airbnb Plus, a collection of verified home listings, he also made it a point to recognize Airbnb hosts, and he noted that the company is adding “14 more benefits” for its best hosts, including custom URLs for their listings, more visibility and exposure on the platform, and more promotion.
To date, there’s been no sign of the debut of custom URLs, but on Monday Airbnb did announce that it would do more to promote its Superhosts. In late December, Airbnb plans to put its Superhosts “front and center” on Airbnb.com and make it easier for users to find and book listings from Superhosts.
And for every day of the week beginning December 10, Airbnb is having a different Superhost take over the company’s Instagram feed and share their stories with Airbnb’s more than 3.5 million followers. The company also plans to release a series of videos highlighting the stories of Superhosts that will be distributed via YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.
Why Airbnb Is Doing This
If there’s anything that Airbnb often points to as the biggest differentiator between their private accommodations platform and that of others, it’s the Airbnb community — the global collection of travelers and hosts who have been a part of the company’s more than 400 million arrivals that have taken place over the past 10 years.
And within that Airbnb community, arguably one of the company’s most valuable assets is its collection of Superhosts, Airbnb hosts “who go above and beyond for every guest” and have exceptional reviews and ratings.
So, it’s not surprising that, as the company readies itself for a potential public offering next year, that Airbnb would try to do all it can to keep those 600,000 Superhosts happy and loyal to Airbnb.
As Skift noted last year in a deep dive, “Airbnb’s Road to an IPO: Everything You Could Possibly Need to Know,” one major challenge for the company as it matures is to counter host fatigue, or that eventual point in a host’s tenure where the newness and shine of being a host eventually wears off.
But, as with any company that evolves and matures, the relationship that Airbnb has had with its Superhosts — some of whom have been with the company for nearly a decade — there have been ups and downs. And the company has risked alienating some of those hosts as it changes the qualifications for being a Superhost, and launches new products like Airbnb Plus.
Prior to 2018, for example, the qualification for being a Superhost was to have 80 percent of your reviews at a rating of five or more stars. Today, however, guest ratings below four or five stars today will have more impact on a host’s ability to maintain Superhost status.
San Francisco-based Airbnb Superhost Ivan Abeshaus, was initially skeptical of the debut of the new Airbnb Plus product back in February.
“Instead of trying to market this wonderful idea [of homesharing] to more people, and changing their minds, Airbnb is changing the product so it fits what those others want,” Abeshaus, who’s been an Airbnb host since 2009 said. “I know there are still listings like ours on the site, but we’ll be listed below all the standardized Airbnb Plus listings. It’s backwards, short-sighted, and definitely not part of a ‘host led world,’ whatever that means.”
Given today’s news regarding Superhosts, it’s not yet clear how Airbnb will ensure that it equally promotes its Airbnb Plus listings and its Airbnb Superhosts.
Not all Superhosts have Airbnb Plus listings, and not all Airbnb Plus listings are managed by Superhosts, noted David Jacoby, a San Francisco-based Airbnb Superhost and president and co-founder of Hostfully, a startup that helps hosts create personalized guidebooks for their guests.
“I’m glad they want to promote those Plus listings more, and that they want to promote Superhosts, but how will they manage the difference between the two?” Jacoby asked. After applying for the Plus program recently, Jacoby decided not to join the program because he didn’t like having less or no control over his listings’ photos and descriptions.
One other group of hosts whom Airbnb should also be paying attention to, Jacoby noted, were professional property managers, especially if Airbnb seeks to continue to increase its inventory of quality homes against the likes of competitors such as Booking.com and HomeAway.
“It’s really hard for property managers to become Superhosts because they manage many, many properties,” Jacoby said. “If they have just one cancellation, they can lose their status as a Superhost.”
What Superhosts Really Want From Airbnb
While details on the upcoming Superhost week are scant, what is clear is that Superhosts want, and need, certain things from Airbnb to remain loyal to the brand. Here’s a quick rundown of what they’d like to see, according to two different Superhosts.
Exceptional Customer Service. Both Jacoby and Matt Niehoff, a Nashville-based Superhost, noted that the priority customer service support they receive as Superhosts is invaluable to them.
“Something we look for, really in any situation or business that we work in, is for customer service,” Niehoff said. “If they continue to offer better customer service for Superhosts, that’s a huge win.”
More Promotion and Exposure That Leads to More Bookings. Both were also happy to hear about Airbnb’s efforts to feature Superhosts on its main homepage and on its Instagram channel.
Vanity URLs—Where Are They? One item of the 14 that Chesky mentioned back in February was the ability for Airbnb Superhosts to have their own customized URLs for their listings. However, according to an Airbnb spokesperson, the company is continuing to work on this.
More Perks, Generally. Perks like travel vouchers, free professional photography, discounts on smart home products, access to tax preparation support, and more are also welcome.