Let’s use Airbnb to think like a future resident . . . and what it means for our industry.

By Jacquelyn Kung

Everyone in our industry knows that Baby Boomers will transform us. One Boomer CEO even confidentially said to me, “I don’t want to live in this (*stuff*) that we are offering.”

In the hotel industry, Airbnb has transformed the sector. Did you know Airbnb offers more rooms on its platform than all of Hilton Hotels worldwide?

Incredible, isn’t it?

So let’s use Airbnb to think like a future resident . . . the following is some of what I think it means for our industry.

Rethink the Competition: It’s the HOME

In the case of Airbnb, the consumer would otherwise stay at a hotel or another Airbnb. In the same way, retirement community residents may move into a competing building — but as Dan Rexford and Tom Mann have commented on this Forum, it’s more likely they would just stay home.

Then, the question becomes: how do we compete against the HOME?

The answer may be in what this competition cannot offer. I’m the host of several Airbnb properties, and to compete, what we do to fill up is use uncommon “pull” factors to attract guests away from hotels and even other Airbnbs:

  • Garden chess. We put in a giant chess board in one Airbnb home as we wanted non-partiers (seriously). It’s unbelievable how many chess champions have stayed with us. Guests can NOT get this with a hotel.
  • First timers. We noticed that most of our guests tell us that this is their first time using Airbnb, which means a lot of fear and concern. We specifically market our home on Airbnb to those types of guests, and it helps that so many guests say in their reviews that their first time using Airbnb was a great one.
  • Smart home. Many guests have told us that this is the first time they tried Chromecast, August Lock, or auto-flush home toilets. Apparently for guests, it’s a great way to “try before you buy.” These little home gadgets are beyond what most hotels can offer.

What can our industry do to make moving in MORE ATTRACTIVE than what residents can get at home? Just saying it doesn’t help much — how can we SHOW or help them LIVE it?

Redefine Our Customer: Prioritizing EMPLOYEES As Our Customers

When thinking about my own Airbnb properties, it dawned on me: my “new consumer” is not so much my guests; more often, it’s the members of my team.

  • After all, my team is the reason my Airbnbs have 100+ five-star reviews.
  • Five star reviews have bolstered my ability in the business office to raise rates . . . and still see increased occupancy year after year.
  • What’s more, as with retirement communities, my Airbnb team is MOSTLY MILLENIALS.

With so many choices for work, it’s critical for me to attract and retain a great Airbnb team – mostly of Millenials – especially if I’m looking to grow and maintain good margins (And I AM looking to host more Airbnbs so if you know of any good properties…). 

As with our retirement communities, to serve our Airbnb residents, we focus on our employees to:

  • Offer more than ‘just a job’ and checking in regularly on what is work for each person. See Mary and Tony’s stories below.
  • Focus on the 5 drivers of employee engagement: Pride, Fairness, Respect, Credibility, Camraderie.
  • Tie employee engagement to resident engagement to key financial metrics – in a quantified, predictive way.

In our Airbnb world, we have learned a lot about keeping the team happy. What has resulted is heart warming. Mary, my glorified “head of guest relations,” has told me that running our Airbnb guest relations is her favorite task as a virtual personal assistant. Tony recently told me his family took a vacation to Tahoe with his extra earnings — and booked his first Airbnb because he’s seen the difference his work has made for our Airbnb guests. I love hearing these stories.

Concluding Thoughts

What features and benefits would differentiate your community to the types of residents you would like to attract? What can we do to attract those who have never lived in a retirement community before? Please leave your thoughts below!