Darren was one of the first employees to join Airbnb in the APAC region. He joined the company in 2012 when the company opened the first office where he was responsible for opening new destinations in Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia. Darren was then promoted to lead recruiting and onboarding hosts where he led the supply side to grow from 5,000 to 200,000 hosts. Read moreView Profile Page
In terms of things like hotels and the traditional hospitality world, as I alluded to earlier, I think that’s something that has existed for quite a while. Hotels have had a multitude of options in terms of booking OTAs and so on. Booking.com has been around for 20 years or however long, 15 years. Expedia and all the different brands and hotels and the Agoda’s etc. Hotels have been entrenched and setup for a long time. With something like an Airbnb coming along, it was really about potentially bringing a different guest demographic to those hotels. Potentially, highlighting the different types of hotels that are actually offering some kind of unique and different form of hospitality and helping to highlight those properties. Ultimately, that’s what Airbnb was trying to offer, local and authentic hospitality experiences. Whether that came from a boutique hotel or your typical Airbnb host, if the guest was happy, everyone was happy. That was the main thing. Then certainly in terms of looking at professional supply, it was more about, what are the tools and things that Airbnb needs to build to help support those folks?
Again, starting out as a consumer led platform meant managing more than three listings on Airbnb was a bit of a chore. You could do it, but it was not streamlined. There were inefficiencies all over the place. What are the things that need to be built and need to be ready before we can actually tackle that market? Certainly, in the early days, there were probably people saying, “We should start looking at this”, but if the product is not there, why do you want to go after that piece of the pie? You’re almost setting yourself up for failure if you’re going too hard after those.
Again, those professional platforms are established businesses. They know what they want, they know what they need. They’re going to tell you. If you try to go into that market without really much support from the rest of the business, you’re going to struggle. I would say especially on the hotels’ front for example. If we think about now, it’s still early days before Airbnb was thinking about that, but that’s not really a perishable opportunity. That’s sitting there, hotels have been around for decades. That’s not going anywhere. As I said, Airbnb, whatever their market share of the hotel business is, they have a long way to go. They can try tackling that at a later date. It’s not going anywhere. They’re not necessarily going to lose too much if they take their time on that front, as well. Similar to things like transportation and so on, as well. It’s thinking about long-term and the future, what does travel look like in 20 years from now and that experience?
Ultimately, they care about driving their revenue forward. Especially when you think about something like a professional property manager. They’ve got to deal with multiple sides of their business. They’ve got the guests that are coming through and ultimately everyone is worried, everyone should be focused on providing great experience for the guests, whether you’re running a hotel, a room in your Airbnb, or you’ve got 100 properties. That’s the number one thing they should be caring about. If they do that and focus on that, their revenues will increase. When you think about professional property managers, they’ve got the guests, they’ve got the platforms, like your Airbnb’s and your VRBOs and so on. They’ve also got owners. When I say owners, I mean the owners of their homes that they’re potentially managing. They’ve got to juggle all of those different pieces and be able to focus on what support do they need for each of those at different times? What support do they need from each of those? When you’ve got an Airbnb host that is renting out their primary residence, they’re the owner, as well. Anything goes wrong, anything they need to fix, it’s their property.
When you’re managing an Airbnb on behalf of someone else, you’ve also got that other person to deal with that maybe isn’t as involved in the process as you are, but again if something goes wrong or something happens and they’re saying, hold on, I’ve got these bookings coming in, what’s going on? Or you’ve had this problem, you have to deal with multiple stakeholders there or an extra stakeholder. That makes it trickier for some of those professionals. The ones that do it really well understand how they can manage their owners better. That was always something that came up. Whenever you speak to a property manager, it’s about keeping their guests happy, keeping their owners happy, then ensuring that they’ve got close connections with all the OTAs and different channels, as well, to make sure that happens smoothly.
I think it’s interesting, the more you talk to, some folks would be very focused on those kinds of things and some won’t. I think it’s really about establishing the value that you can offer as a platform rather than just talking about fee and take rate and so on. Again, you’re talking 14 % versus 15% for example. If that’s the one thing you’re going to go on, it just ends up as that’s all you ever focus on. I think you lose sight of some of the other things. Both, again, from a guest perspective and the things you can offer, but also just the different things that each platform is offering.
Take rate probably matters at different times of the year for a professional event. This is very dependent on the area or the market. I think this comes back to just understanding your markets. If you’ve got a host that is in, let’s use a ski destination as an example. A ski destination has a very clear seasonality to it, in terms of when people are going to be coming and staying and when they’re not. During the ski period, you might be able to say, I know that I’m going to be able to fill that two years out from now anyway. Therefore, the commission rate actually matters a lot because I just guaranteed that I can fill that. I’m going to be focusing on the platforms that offer me a lot of commission or I can get all of that locked in. Whereas, on the flipside of that, if you’re outside of the ski season and your place is still open, let’s just assume, they might be willing to pay a bit more in terms of actually generating those bookings and getting those bookings in. If they just focus on price too much, I think they lose sight on some of the other pieces, as well.