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Airbnb's focus on small hosts

During Episode #6 of the HCH Podcast we spoke to Thibault Masson, short-term rentals industry expert, Founder of Rental Scale-Up, and Head of Product Marketing at PriceLabs.

Thibault spoke about his journey in the sector, including starting out as a host in St Barts, working as a consultant for, the origins of Rental Scale-Up, and his new role with PriceLabs. He also spoke at length about Airbnb and where the company might be headed in the short and medium term.

Click here to listen to the podcast, which was hosted by HCH Founder, James Varley. Below are some key excerpts from the interview.

James Varley: What’s happening with Airbnb and what can we expect from them in future?

Thibault Masson: Airbnb is such a fascinating company. I know the industry sometimes has this love-hate relationship with Airbnb. It’s so big, it has taken over the name of our industry. It’s not a cottage or holiday rental anymore, it’s an ‘Airbnb’. That’s true in the UK, the US, and even in France as well.

After COVID, Airbnb has been careful to say very loudly that they’re going back to their roots, which means small hosts. It’s very important to understand that Airbnb is very strong at branding. Their storytelling is fantastic. The design is fantastic.

Airbnb has been very careful to look after small hosts. They will tell you that 90% of their hosts have one property, which is probably true. But if you think about this, maybe 10% of the other hosts have hundreds of listings that might be open all year round. And if you have one property that’s open two weeks a year, that’s not the same thing. But Airbnb has been really trying to push this image.

They’ve also been trying to get more individual hosts – with big TV campaigns in the UK, Europe, the US. They want people to think this is a good way to make money – maybe if you have unused space. This is how they started 20 years ago, and they’re going after people who haven’t thought about this already.

They are also talking about security and trust. 'If you host with us, there’s not going to be a party. If something happens, we’re going to cover you with a $3 million guarantee.' It’s not insurance, it’s a guarantee – whatever that means.

What’s also interesting is that they’ve rebuilt an ecosystem around smaller hosts. If you’re a small host and have no clue what you’re doing, Airbnb will enable you to find a super host who’s going to guide you, help you with your listing, your pricing, and the rest. Recently, Airbnb relaunched its co-hosting platform, so if you don’t know how to welcome people and send messages, Airbnb is going to help you find somebody to do this for you. And what’s fascinating is that these new hosts will probably end up being exclusive to Airbnb. If you’re getting all these services, you’re probably not going to try other platforms, because they don’t offer these services with the same people. In the end, this is fantastic for Airbnb because they get more exclusive listings.

Also, a lot of these people will use Airbnb’s smart pricing – their inbuilt dynamic pricing tool. It’s very interesting because it basically means that Airbnb is setting the prices on its own platform. Think about it – imagine if Amazon was deciding the price of things sold on Amazon. People say it’s not possible – you can’t be a marketplace and a price maker. But that’s what they’re doing. It’s a great position for Airbnb.

Click here to listen to Episode #6 of the HCH Podcast with Thibault Masson. For the very latest from the short-term rentals industry, including tips and advice for hosts and property managers, sign up for our weekly newsletter.


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