Skift Take

The listings platform is refocusing on hosts, and wants to make their lives as easy as possible in a bid to continue growing the business.

As Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky sets off to spend a year living in Airbnb properties, the listings platform is stepping up its focus on hosts, on top of tourists, having earlier run “top level” marketing that focused on the brand, according to its managing director for Northern Europe.

Hosts are also part of an advisory board helping to manage the company’s endowment fund, designed to heal relations after waves of pandemic cancellations.

Airbnb’s next marketing phase will now move further down the “funnel,” revealed Amanda Cupples at Skift Forum Europe on Thursday. “The path to hosting is very much a journey,” she said. “As you move through the journey, there are a number of obstacles in the way. We’re doing a lot of research to figure out how we can help prospective hosts get over blockers.”

There’s already an Ask a superhost campaign, but it’s planning to put out “appropriate marketing” in different countries. It already has radio ads in the UK, with marketing tests ongoing.

Website traffic was up 40 percent. “All I can say is we’re happy marketing is having a positive impact,” she told Skift founding editor Dennis Schaal.

Cupples, who was speaking at the “How Travel Will Change as Work, Life, and Mobility Are Redefined” session , also touched upon the progress made on its host endowment fund.

Was the money flowing, asked Schaal. “I’m not Brian’s accountant,” Cupples joked. “It’s a way for Airbnb in the long-term to contribute back to our hosts. We don’t mange it, there are 24 hosts who manage it. This is the first full year of it,” she said, adding we could expect to see “movement over the coming months.”

Lost Connection?

Cupples also rejected the suggestion that large property managers were taking over, with platforms like Sonder selling Airbnb, and that the sense of community between host and hostee was slowly being eroded.

“It’s a little bit of a myth that it’s big property managers,” she said. “Eight out of 10 hosts have one listing. It’s still a business based on everyday people opening up their homes, to make ends meet or do something a little bit different in their lives. We do welcome property managers, but we have a high quality bar. We appreciate them, but it has to be Airbnb type accommodation.”

And there had been no impact from other platforms trying to lure Airbnb hosts away, Cupples added, as active listings were increasing quarter on quarter.

As with previous speakers from Expedia and Booking.com, she said that it was no longer a question of if travel was coming back, but rather how it was coming back. Despite Omicron, Christmas period bookings in 2021 were up 40 percent on the same period in 2020. Non urban properties had also shifted from 40 to 60 percent of bookings, which was a trend that would continue.

The future of remote work also looks to play a role among its bookers, with the company itself extending its own remote policy until September this year. “We took a call early on and made a decision in May last year,” Cupples said. “We weren’t sure what was going to happen.” The decision was also largely driven by the fact it represented a full school year.

Would Airbnb extend the policy beyond September? Cupples said Airbnb would unlikely go for five days a week in the office. “We will walk the walk on the talk we’re talking,” she said.

Also like the online travel agencies, Airbnb evolving the way it helps Ukrainians fleeing the war, and had recently talked to the Swedish government about 200,000 refugees. “Our hosts are just so generous,” Cupples said.

UPDATE: This article was updated to add that hosts are part of an advisory board that helps manage Airbnb’s endowment fund.

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Tags: airbnb, europe, future of lodging, russia, sfe2022, short-term rentals, skift forum europe, skift live

Photo credit: Amanda Cupples, Airbnb’s managing director for Northern Europe, speaking at Skift Forum Europe. Russell Harper Photography / Skift