Why you can’t possibly stay in my ‘AirBnB’
Names are important. They define us, and become recognition cues in peoples minds that help them to understand who and what we are.
It is a (common) reaction amongst Vacation Rental owners like myself to be frustrated by people referring to their properties or Short Term Rentals as ‘AirBnBs’. Referring to them as such is wrong.
I use the term STR because that is the one blanket reference that refers generally to most of the non-traditional accommodations (non-hotel or BnB). All Vacation Rentals are STRs, but not all STRs are Vacation Rentals. And the traditional vacation rental, like what we offer at Breezy Oak Villas, is most definitely not an ‘AirBnB’.
AirBnB started off as a ‘home sharing’ site. The idea was that if you needed a place to stay, instead of going to a hotel you could rent an Air Bed in someone’s home and get Breakfast with it. AirBed’n’Breakfast… AirBnB.
The accommodations, requirements, investments, nature of the guest… so many various things are so entirely different for a true Vacation Rental when compared to ‘home sharing’, which at its essence is the idea of renting a spare space/room in someone else’s home where they live. That is radically different from the idea of renting someone’s entire remote vacation home so that you can experience it just as they do when on holidays.
AirBnB, due to its size, popularity and success (if one can call it that… instead let’s refer to it as cultural and market awareness) about ten years ago began to see more and more vacation rental owners and managers listing their STR properties on AirBnB, hoping to gain bookings. At the same time, the site began to get filled with lots of apartment style accommodations in inner cities, operated by ‘professionals’ who would rent multiple units from landlords, furnish them, and then sub-rent them to travellers. All of this diluted the original ‘home-sharing’ concept that the site was based on, and of course, AirBnB was only too happy to take on the listings and facilitate the bookings for their roughly 20% cut.
But for those guests familiar with the home sharing concept, and the patterns it established, the situation created a lot of false expectations about what every property listed on the site is like, or how it should be operated. And this ultimately lead to a lot of challenges for some owners, as their own (sometimes very well) established policies and means of operating came into conflict with those of AirBnB.
As a result of all of this, many owners don’t care to have their properties identified as ‘an AirBnB’ as the term itself, though actually meaningless, is loaded with all sorts of expectations on the part of the person using the term, which are likely to be wrong at least half the time. It also reduces the value and importance of the individual owner, and their individual property, as using a generic name leads to the commoditization of the STR properties on the site.
Commoditization means that each individual unit isn’t important, as it can easily be exchanged (at least from AirBnB’s and the guest’s point of view) with another. In other words, which accommodations the guest stays at isn’t important to AirBnB, and from AirBnB’s point of view, shouldn’t be important to the guest either. One property is just as suitable as another. “You need a place to stay? Here! As long as we make our commission on it!”
Obviously this is diametrically opposite to the interests of the owner/managers, who want and need guests to specifically choose their properties to stay in, and hopefully return to as well for future stays.
AirBnB ultimately wants the guest to be loyal to the website, not a particular property/owner. In order to protect and enhance their source of revenue (ie processing bookings on the site) they need the guests to be loyally coming back to the site to book again and again, not developing relationships with owners directly and then bypassing AirBnB to make their bookings. This is often referred to as ‘who owns the customer’. Does the customer book with AirBnB, or with the owner manager who listed the property? Where do the customer’s loyalties lie?
Referring to properties listed on the site as ‘AirBnBs’ feeds the site’s goals, and harms the owner/manager’s goals. For AirBnB it is a great thing. It is considered one of the holy grails of marketing to establish such dominance in the consumer’s mind that they no longer refer to a product by its name, but by a particular brand name; for example, it’s not a facial tissue – it’s a Kleenex.
In the strictest terms, using the term AirBnB to refer to a property listed on the site makes no sense because it defines so little. Ultimately the website, like all Online Travel Agencies, is an advertising vehicle. It is a means of promoting STR accommodations and bringing customers and vendors together. If you see an ad for a BMW in the New York Times, would you refer to the ‘beemer’ as a ‘New York Times’? Would you call a restaurant ‘The New York Times’ because you saw it advertised there?
If you used a search engine today, does that make you a ‘Google’?
Who knows… perhaps the BMW dealership and the restaurant may not want any association between their two businesses, for whatever reason. But if they are both being called ‘The New York Times’ in common conversation, they can’t avoid the association.
Likewise, as an owner of a quality vacation rental which features four bedrooms, a games room, and its own private pool, which is located a short distance from the number one tourist destination in the world, and which I have invested years and hundreds of thousands of dollars in, I frankly don’t want people assuming that what I offer has anything in common with a spare bedroom in somebody’s basement in Sioux Falls, South Dakota (great little city by the way) offered as accommodations only because the owner wants some pizza and beer money for the weekend.
Any particular property may be offered through many different websites for promotion and booking. Does it make sense to call one particular property a VRBO, or an AirBnB, or a Booking, or a Flip Key, or a TripAdvisor, or an Owner’s Own Site depending upon where it was booked? Of course not. Each is just as wrong as the other.
We all want to have our own identities, and be understood, recognized and ultimately respected for what and who we are.
Calling a property an AirBnB doesn’t do that. It isn’t in fact what it is, and it could be doing it a massive disservice to everyone affected, depending upon the listener’s own expectations and understanding.