Running an Airbnb business is harder than it looks

2016-05-04 09:22China Daily Editor: Xu Shanshan

Thanks to the internet-enabled sharing economy, which allows one who has idle assets to make use of them via the peer-to-peer model, it is officially the era of "what is mine is yours" in China, or at least in major cities of the country.

As a tech reporter, I've been following the rapid growth of sharing-economy companies, such as Didi Chuxing and Uber Technologies Inc, for two years. And as a consumer, I've been actively using such apps to hail private cars or book a stay in complete strangers' apartments when traveling around.

So when my husband and I moved to our new apartment three months ago, which meant our old apartment was an "idle asset", I thought why not set up our own lodging business on Airbnb Inc and get further involved in the sharing economy?

You can host people with different backgrounds from across the world, you can provide them with local knowledge, shaping their views on the city you live, you can enjoy the flexibility to list or delist the apartment based on your own needs, and you can make some decent money. Who would say no to such opportunities? So without much consideration or hesitation, we took steps to launch our apartment online.

Now, what you read all comes from a proud five-star Airbnb host. Our small adventure online has led to more than 225 reviews, dozens of requests, and three successful bookings in the first month we listed the apartment online. I don't want to brag, but our apartment is barely vacant due to the booming demand. So here are some tips to run an Airbnb business, in case you want to be part of the sharing economy yourself.

1. Prepare a nice apartment and make sure it is super clean. Offering people a chance to stay in your home doesn't mean that they need to have a real-life experience of how sloppy you live.

2. Always upload gorgeous looking photos of your apartment online to attract potential guests. "Don't judge a book by its cover" doesn't apply in the internet era. Airbnb does offer free photo-shoot by professional photographer, but there is a long waiting list.

3. Use a nice profile photo of yourself with a big smile and include some personal details, such as occupation, hobbies and age, to introduce yourself. Don't think it may violate your privacy. It is critical to build trust among strangers in the sharing economy.

4. Target a particular group of guests, such as tourists or students, based on the features of your apartment and highlight whatever makes you apartment special. My apartment, which is quite small and far away from the city center of Beijing, is certainly not ideal for tourists or a big family. But it is equipped with good transportation and is in a neighborhood full of hardworking young people trying to make a better future in Beijing. So I brand it as a place for young travelers who want to have a taste of real life in the capital of China, and for those who come here to find jobs. And I have found that this approach works well. My first guest was a university student from Shanghai and the other two guests were overseas returnees who came to Beijing to have job interviews.

5. Rather than an empty apartment, give them everything they need to feel at home ... tea, coffee, shampoo, hair conditioner, hair drier, lotion. Bear in mind that they are your guests not just customers.

6. Start with a relatively low price to gain a reputation and good reviews first. Airbnb also has a system to automatically give you a guide on pricing based on changes in supply and demand, the location and other factors of your listed apartment.

7. For a part-time Airbnb host like me, it is important to have the support from your spouse, family or friends. Running an Airbnb business may look fun, but to offer a superb service, you need to reply to customers' requests and questions as quickly as possible. You are more than a host, but also a janitor, a plumber and a tour guide. It is almost impossible to do that when you have a demanding full-time job.



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