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Start with “WHO”

Updated: Feb 29

Too often, people see an Airbnb or VRBO listing and go straight to the thought, “I have a property. I can do this too!” But with people dropping out of the industry left and right, the question becomes, “Why?” There are many possible reasons: regulatory challenges and restrictions, the inability to make their locations profitable (I’m talking NET profit), market saturation, management and team issues, difficult guests (and platform ambassadors), bad revenue, pricing and calendar management, and the list goes on…  But what makes for a successful operator? What makes a location successful? Many STR operations start with a property and try to figure out who to put in it. But often, the most successful operators dont try to cater to everyone— rather, they pick a specific “client avatar”and figure out what that person wants, where they want to stay, what they want to do. Then they FIND the property that that person wants to stay at and CREATE an experience dedicated to that avatar.  Let’s take Airbnb for example. There’s plenty of statistics, so let’s see who stays at the average airbnb. Note, this does NOT mean this is a niche group, but if we were just wanting to cater to the “everyone” on Airbnb, this is what that avatar would look like:

Basic Demographic Information

  • Age: The age range of Airbnb users is quite broad, but a significant portion falls within the 25-44 age group. This demographic is tech-savvy, values experiences over possessions, and is likely to use online platforms for travel arrangements.

  • Gender: Airbnb appeals to all genders, with a slight skew towards females who may prioritize unique experiences and value the personal touch of Airbnb accommodations.

  • Income Level: The income range of Airbnb guests varies, but the platform is especially popular among middle to upper-middle-class individuals who are looking for value-for-money accommodations as well as unique lodging experiences that traditional hotels might not offer.

Travel Preferences and Behaviors

  • Purpose of Travel: Airbnb guests travel for a multitude of reasons, including leisure/vacation (which is the most common reason), business, visiting friends or relatives, and exploring new cultures.

  • Duration of Stay: The average stay varies by the purpose of the visit, but many bookings are for short-term stays ranging from 2 to 7 nights. Longer stays have become more common with the rise of remote work and digital nomadism.

  • Travel Party Composition: Guests often travel in pairs (such as couples or friends) or in small family groups. Solo travelers and larger groups are also common but constitute a smaller portion of the total bookings.

  • Booking Preferences: Guests typically look for spaces that offer a good balance between price, location, and amenities. Cleanliness, Wi-Fi, a kitchen, and flexible cancellation policies are highly valued features.

Interests and Values

  • Experience-Seeking: A significant number of Airbnb users prefer unique and local travel experiences over generic tourist activities. They may choose accommodations based on their proximity to local attractions, neighborhoods, and experiences that offer a deeper cultural immersion.

  • Sustainability: Eco-conscious guests are increasingly common on Airbnb, showing a preference for accommodations that prioritize sustainability, whether through eco-friendly practices or sustainable living conditions.

  • Technology Use: The average Airbnb guest is comfortable using technology for both booking and managing their travel experiences. They appreciate platforms that offer ease of use, transparent reviews, and seamless communication with hosts.

Travel Impact and Expectations

  • Economic Sensitivity: While not exclusively price-sensitive, many guests are looking for value in their bookings, balancing cost with the quality and uniqueness of their stay.

  • Social Interaction: Some guests appreciate the social aspect of Airbnb, including the opportunity to meet hosts and receive personalized recommendations for their stay. Others may prefer minimal interaction and value privacy.

Adaptability and Flexibility

  • Adaptability to New Experiences: Airbnb guests often display a willingness to explore new types of accommodations beyond traditional hotels, such as apartments, houses, unique stays like treehouses, and even shared spaces.

  • Flexibility in Travel Plans: With changing travel restrictions and work flexibility, Airbnb guests have shown a propensity for making last-minute bookings and valuing flexible cancellation policies.

This avatar represents a generalization and there will always be exceptions and variations among individual guests. Airbnb's diverse offerings attract a wide range of travelers, each with their own unique preferences and expectations.

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