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Do you often have clients with French fry budgets and caviar tastes? If so, you might consider a new trend in event venues – Airbnb.
Ready to book an Airbnb for your next event? Here’s what you need to know.
Airbnb’s Chip Conley, head of hospitality and strategy announced that the popular vacation rental site would soon be appealing to an additional market, event planners and conference attendees. What does this mean for your business and how can you take advantage of what seems like a cost-effective way to land an amazing venue? Before you jump online and start scouting possibilities, there are a few things you should know.
There Are Two Sides to Every Market: 2 Ways to Use Airbnb for Events
Airbnb is looking to enter the event market in two ways that will benefit event planners, but also change the process in larger cities.
First, Airbnb is looking to appeal to the convention or conference attendee. This may alter the idea of room blocks in large metropolitan areas with many room options. You may have already seen younger, budget-minded attendees opt for Airbnb, VRBO, or even couch surfing options instead of your traditional hotel block. Since many attendees are opting to wrap vacations around a conference, convention, or meeting, and most vacationers enjoy exploring more of the city than a ballroom and a hotel lobby, solutions like Airbnb provide more local flavor.
The second part of the market the popular site is exploring are venues. While Conley admitted Airbnb will always be a predominantly leisure-targeted company, there are many exciting venue options for event planners.
The Search Begins
As an event planner looking to use Airbnb, you’ll want to decide if you’re using it as a venue or a suggestion for alternatives to the traditional room block. You can also use it as an economic alternative once your block is filled. If you’re using it for attendee rooms, Airbnb suggests adding their room widget to your site and allowing guests to make their own reservations.
If you’re looking for a venue, you may find the search on Airbnb more enjoyable than the usual hotel conference room search because of the details and easy-to-use filters. If you want to locate a possible venue, go to the site, select 16+ guests (the largest number possible from the drop-down), click under “more filters,” click “amenities” and in the drop-down select “suitable for events.”
While the search is easy, that does not mean the owner of the property allows the type of event you’d like to host there. You’ll need to check with each property owner individually.
The sort feature is easy to use. You can sort your results based on adjectives like “modern” or “hip” and by important location features like “near public transit.” This is helpful if you already have a feel for the kind of event you want to host.
An Airbnb property may not be the ideal venue for your large-scale conference but it might be a nice change of pace for an intimate meeting or retreat. It can also be the ideal solution for vendors who are looking for additional meeting space close to a convention or conference center, as many of those rooms book up quickly during a conference.
Explore Your Insurance Needs
When you book with a traditional venue, the facility may carry insurance to cover your event. However, with Airbnb the host is covered for up to $1,000,000 for damages to his/her place. This does not cover your attendees’ injury/personal liability or damage to things the owner’s rental/homeowner’s policy would cover, just damage to the property. This guarantee doesn’t cover common areas for either of you. Check with an event insurance professional before booking anything.
Permits for an event may also be required. You’ll need to know the area. Some cities like New York City and San Francisco have passed strict ordinances about Airbnb rentals. Check out local laws before booking something.
Be Aware Site Visits are Probably Out
This is solely on the person who is renting the venue to you but if you are used to several pre-event walk-throughs with the property, you may be giving those up if you select an Airbnb rental.
Additional Things You’ll Need to Consider/Cover
Since you’re renting a non-traditional event space, you’ll need to think about things that are normally taken care of for you through a venue. These items include, but may not be limited to:
- WiFi. Yes, many rentals offer Wi-Fi but their system is not likely able to handle large amounts of attendees. They most likely have a personal Wi-Fi data speed, not that of a business.
- Seating. Most homes, even grand ones, aren’t furnished to seat fifty people in one room.
- Dishes. This one your catering company can handle for you but just make sure they know they have to.
- AV and technology needs. You’ll most likely need to bring this in on your own as the technology that exists will be for personal use and will most likely not meet the needs of a conference, since most people don’t have microphones and sound systems in their homes.
- Restrooms. Many people means many commodes, not to mention the “stresses” on a residential septic system. Unless you bring in a portable solution, you will be experiencing long waits for the restroom.
- Are there noise ordinances in the neighborhood? While this is probably not a concern for a business meeting venue, it does become one if your event is a wedding or other party atmosphere. Let’s face it, even association professionals enjoy evening merriment.
- Cleaning fees. Most Airbnb hosts factor in a cleaning fee in the rental of a little less than $100. Your host may tack on additional fees for large numbers of people.
- Individual preferences and details. With the exception of the business traveler hosts, who have to meet a minimum level of service and features for that designation, each property host negotiates his/her own deal. What worked for one venue can’t be assumed for another. Remember the property host is most likely not an events professional like you’d find at a more traditional venue. You will need to run the list of things you require and/or will be doing by them. They won’t know based on years of experience in the industry like some of your other event partners.
Airbnb’s Business Travel
Airbnb makes business travel easy and many of your attendees may find those features of benefit. Properties marked as “business travel” offer a number of amenities aimed at the professional including a no pet guarantee, work areas, and 24-hour check-ins. The company has also streamlined the expense reporting process for these properties. Simply mark the box for business travel and Airbnb takes care of the expense process. They also offer business hotlines that are always open to meet the needs of business travelers in this way they are looking to compete with hotels over the profitable business market, but with one advantage. Which brings us to…
The Future of Airbnb and Data: Something Event Planners Need to Know
While there’s a lot to still be cautious of when using it to book an event, the future of Airbnb is very exciting. This company takes data seriously. Users build a profile and the company tracks searches, selections, and other data that affect choice. Instead of showing the traveler hundreds of listings in a city, it plans to use data to offer personalized suggestions based on past behavior. Hotels don’t have access to that same detailed data since so many searches are performed on third-party aggregate sites like TripAdvisor or Travelocity. The trend of personalization is hot and people love personalized suggestions. This could cause a shift in business travel bookings.
Airbnb, and others like them are entering the event space at differing speeds and commitments, but it is a cost-effective option for the right event. However, it is important to perform your due diligence when booking this way. There are many differences between a private residence and one that’s suited for larger crowds. Many of the things that are handled for you with a traditional event space will be left up to you to coordinate if you go down this route.