It’s January in London and so far its been a mild winter but it has rained almost every day since August (well it certainly feels like it). The heavy rain has caused unexpected damage to my house which is very annoying but it has not affected my airbnb which has been full most days (only Sundays I was not 100% booked out but that was almost a welcome relief for me). But now it’s reached January and like every year for the past 5 years that i’ve been an airbnb host my bookings have dried up.
Did you airbnb bookings suddenly drop off in January?
It’s only because i’ve been a host for over fives years that I know the sudden drop off of bookings is normal. I know its obvious that January should be a quiet month, thats not the full issue. The issue is this – not only is January quiet but there don’t seem to be forward bookings either. In my experience about half my guests book about 6-10 weeks ahead. The other half about 2 weeks ahead. But looking at my calendar there are very few bookings in Feb and March (where I would expect to be about half full already, and of course no bookings at all in the next 2 weeks). So what should i do?
What to do if you don’t have bookings?
If you have suddenly stopped getting bookings in January first don’t panic. There may be nothing at all wrong with your listing, or a borderline bad review has not ruined your hosting future. It’s just that time of year. It’s actually scary looking into the darkness and only seeing a empty airbnb calendar, if this is your main source of income.
I have a mortgage to pay so I really need my airbnb money to come in every month without fail. I can’t miss a month and make up the difference later. I need that money now! Its a simple fact that demand has dropped and now the airbnb market is crowded with empty rooms. There is only one thing for it and that is to drop my prices.
When I first became a airbnb host 5 years ago I was charging £20 a night average for a private room. Today I charge the same amount – £20. Adjusting for inflation I am charging less than five years ago. Why am i charging the same price? Well it’s basically because the market can’t handle a higher price.
Despite the increasing popularity of airbnb for travellers this has been more than offset by the increased number of those who want to host. Also I suspect traditional hotels have significantly reduced their prices to compete with airbnb, so this has kept prices low.
I have tried to increase my prices slightly but this sometimes led to not getting bookings and I would rather be full than empty so this didn’t work out. I find it’s better to be full ALL the time for two reasons: 1. the constant cash flow 2. bookings generally lead to bookings
Should you drop your listing price?
So what can you do about your empty airbnb calendar? Well first you need to drop your prices. Every year I have bitten the bullet and dropped my prices BELOW my acceptable minimum price. In some respects I was making a loss (when you consider my time and effort as well as the actual cost of my house). My guests were getting a dam good deal in my opinion.
Why would I drop my prices like this? Well first as mentioned above bookings generally lead to bookings. This is part of airbnb search rankings. A place that was booked will be seen as positive by airbnb’s search engine and push you up the rankings. Possibly therefore ensuring future much more lucrative bookings! Second is to stay liquid. Cash in every day pays the bills. Profit next year is no good to me if I have bills to pay TODAY.
Also to get more bookings there is possible 2 things you can do. First is start using Instant book. Using Instant book will push you up the rankings. Second is to be more flexible with your guests. An example of this might be reducing your minimum trip length to 1 night (some hosts have a two night minimum for example). There are other possibilities such as allowing pets etc.
Having regular guests can keep you in business
Bookings have dropped off but fortunately for me I have a steady stream of regulars. Some of my regular guests have been coming for 4 years or more. They all pay cash and usually come on the same days every week (for example every Monday and Tuesday).
All my regulars are working in the city of London so they are consistent. They usually arrive at about the same time every day and are out all day (at work of course). Guests like this are easily the best in my opinion. I give them a good price and I get peace of mind (the chances of a regular guest causing trouble are very low).
How do you find regular guests? Well I suppose if your listing is not close to any commercial centre you might struggle to get any regulars. However if like me you are in a major city this should be easier. Its somewhat easy to spot a potential regular. Often they will mention in their first contact with you they are in town for work. If not this then if you see them hurry out the door in work clothes early in the morning then this might be an easy hint. You simply have to ask them straight if they are here for work and do they want to make their stay with you ‘a regular thing’. I often immediately make clear that it’s cash only and and that I’m flexible with bookings (often people don’t like to commit too far in advance). It’s usually as easy as that!