The gap between Airbnb and their competitors is getting really, really big.
I mean, we knew they were good, that was clear since the beginning. But so much better? It’s mind blowing.
Maybe the problem is not that Airbnb is good.
The really amazing thing is how bad the others are.
This wasn’t apparent a few years ago, in the way a Trabant owner in Berlin 1985 didn’t realize how good WV Golfs were in Munich at the same time.
Then the wall came down and they realized how bad Trabants were.
Very, very bad.
It’s how it feels now with Homeaway, Fkipkey or even Booking.com.
They were the biggest for a long time. They made a lot of money and probably never really felt like upgrading their website.
It was basically just a list of paid listing and not much regard to the users (both owner and guest) experience.
They were in the business of selling visibility. That was it.
In the last years they have acquired many companies in the space.
That gives them even more visibility.
Most of the times it’s still worth being listed with them but the user experience is still very poor.
The website is a mess, things often don’t work or are completely illogical.
And don’t get me started on the bureaucracy.
Still, I wish them to succeed. We need a subscription website to counter the commission ones, and they are the best placed to be a one-stop solution for that.
But they’ll need to find a way to attract good developers, whom they don’t seem to be able to reach at the moment.
A couple of revealing facts:
1) Maximum 24 pictures.
For some mysterious reason they limit the number of pictures to 24. There can be no logical explanation for that. Server costs? Yes, in 1990, not now. This is obviously a legacy decision nobody is able to change even if it makes no sense.
Often 24 pictures for a 5 bedrooms Villa are not enough.
You can pay 2000 U$ per year to list one apartment and still be limited to 24 pictures. Seriously?
2) They are copying Airbnb (as everybody else) and recently their (well hidden) search feature has become an Airbnb clone.
I guess it makes sense for them to give up any pretension of originality and simply make it right. I’m not sarcastic.
I really think they should do that, as Airbnb has set the standard of the industry for the next years.
Booking.com is a giant. If you get it right they’ll fill you in, in no time.
But they are not vacation rentals friendly.
They just don’t understand it.
I don’t mean nobody understands it in Booking.com, but you still talk to a lot of people who treat you like a hotel.
It feels like Kodak trying to, lazily, get in the digital photography revolution?
“People always liked our films…do we really need to do this?”.
The process to get listed is even more bureaucratic than Homeaway, and their cancellation policies are just absurd for an apartment or villa owner.
They’re trying though.
They launched a new, nice, control panel (extranet), they launched Villas.com to attract the vacation rentals owners and they are even experimenting with payments to be sent to Booking.com first and released to the owners later (again..Airbnb style).
But nothing is actually working as it should.
You can spend hours to upload properties and, weeks later, be told that they won’t list you because some obscure paper is missing.
They are reaching the vacation rentals customers with Villas.com but their customers are still the kind that wants to book now and cancel later with no fees.
Villas.com is just a cosmetic sales tool which changes nothing for the owner.
We sometimes get replies from customers who already booked (with an empty pre-paid debit card) and say “why do you want a deposit? I don’t know the dates yet”.
You try the new payment method and…well, months later it’s still not active.
So, they are trying, but they are a giant and things move slowly.
These guys are cool. Their UI is nice and not a mere Airbnb clone. They are trying new solutions, sometimes better than Airbnb (e.g. ICal sync happens every 2 hours, not 8 like Airbnb).
But they simply don’t have enough power to send you many customers.
I feel they are limiting their efforts to some markets, so unless you are in one of those, you won’t get bookings.
They are awash with free visibility from Tripadvisor and are trying hard to convert it.
But it’s a similar story as Homeaway. Pretty messy.
You’ll still get some bookings, especially now with the strong U$ dollar, but they need to get many things right before.
…in the meantime…
Airbnb is flying away and nothing seems to be able to stop them.
If it goes on like this the real effort will be to try to be first in Airbnb searches. Remember Google Search Engine Optimization? Like it wasn’t even worth trying to be first in Yahoo?
Ok, that, but for Airbnb.
The thing is we don’t want another Google in this space.
We need several good companies competing so that your apartment bookings don’t depend on just one big player.
If you are only in Airbnb and you lose rankings, you won’t get any bookings anymore. That’s too risky.
Let’s see how it goes, we’re here either way to help you make the most of it.