In 2007 Frank and I tried out our first home-swaps in London, Wales and Budapest. We enjoyed it so much we decided that renting out our apartment in Amsterdam would potentially be fun to do and also, not unimportantly, supply us with a lifestyle business. After the financial crash of 2008 both Frank and I were seriously hit in terms of work assignments coming in. So we decided to take some pictures of our apartment, write a juicy text and place an ad on Homeaway. We have never looked back since then and have seventy positive reviews and many more bookings via Homeaway alone.
In 2012 an American girlfriend told me about Airbnb and I decided to place an ad on their site and soon the enquiries started coming in. Now, as Airbnb pros we heard last week that we had been upgraded to superhosts! The stats:
- 25 hosted trips
- 88% 5 star reviews
- 99% response rate (email enquiries etc)
- 100% commitment rate (we don’t cancel bookings
- What you can’t see in these stats is that we greet all our guests personally and try to be flexible regarding checking in and checking out times. We also include bikes in the rental price and my husband, Frank is fantastic at making guests feel welcome and enthusing them about Amsterdam. He loves to give them insider tips about how to make the most of Amsterdam beyond Dam Square, Leidseplein and the other over-visited tourist destinations.
How to Filter Guests?
I’m also highly selective in the guests we take on. I get inquiries every day and probably about 10% result in actual bookings. I rarely take on groups of young people and the tone of the email messages is important too. The English is often bad but that’s not the issue, I always look for empathy of some kind; can the guest see things from my point of view and address some of my concerns? Also the guest’s photo is important and what they have written about themselves on their profile page. No photo and a brief, Hey, I’m Jack, by way of an introduction is very unappealing to a host.
You’d be amazed at the inappropriate photos people post of themselves. I refused someone (who turned out to be very nice so I got it wrong that time) because they were wearing a bear hat with ears in their profile photo. He thought it looked funny but it reminded me of a terrifying scene from The Shining by Stephen King. If you are an Airbnb member, please just post a nice clear photo of yourself looking at the camera and smiling! Not that one when you were totally pissed at a party! Airbnb is not Facebook, folks!
Unfortunately there is a downside to all this and it’s called the Airbnb bandwagon. Amsterdam is a very popular tourist destination and many people have grasped the opportunity to make a quick buck by renting out multiple properties to hordes of noisy travellers who don’t care if they keep the whole street awake at night. Undoubtedly, this is a problem but it’s such a shame that Airbnb in particular is portrayed so negatively in the Dutch media. The Dutch are highly suspicious of the new sharing economy and think it’s something that can be halted. I think you’d have more luck halting a runaway horse and wagon going off the edge of the Grand Canyon…
The Other Side of the Coin
It would be great if the press took one or two positive stories about Airbnb. I’ve lost count of the number of French, Spanish, Italian, Russian and Portuguese families we’ve hosted who otherwise simply could not afford to visit Amsterdam. Not only is the price of hotel rooms for four beyond most working families’ pockets, it’s also impractical with younger children. Sometimes families arrive looking tired and frazzled and it gives Frank and me great satisfaction to see them depart looking relaxed, glowing and happy after a restful stay in this wonderful town. It looks like the sharing economy is here to stay and I for one am very, very, very grateful!