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Ultimate Guide to Airbnb: What It Is and How It Works

Airbnb is an online marketplace that allows people to list and book unique accommodation around the world. Airbnb connects hosts who want to rent out their spaces with guests looking for more affordable and personalised places to stay compared to hotels. What is Airbnb UK and how does Airbnb work? Read on to find out more.


Property Management and Airbnb Concierge Services

What is Airbnb and What Does Airbnb Mean?


From private rooms and apartments to castles, boats, and even treehouses, Airbnb accommodation is as diverse as the hosts and communities that create them. By bringing the shared economy to travel, Airbnb has grown into one of the world's largest marketplaces for unique, authentic places to stay. There are more than 150 million users on the platform. It’s a wildly popular way to book accommodation in cities and other locations around the world, including London.


Airbnb was created in 2008. Although not without some controversy, with some cities having introduced regulation to try and protect housing for locals, the platform’s users have booked around one billion stays since its inception. The Airbnb meaning is simple: the name originates from ‘air bed and breakfast’ – the company founders began by renting air mattresses to people attending a conference nearby.


Airbnb
Airbnb connects hosts with guests for unique short-term lodging experiences.

How Does Airbnb Work?

Airbnb works by allowing local hosts to list spare rooms, apartments, homes, and other lodgings on the platform. Guests can then search through these listings and book accommodation that matches their needs for location, amenities, price, reviews and more. Some key points:


  • Hosts create a listing with photos, details about the accommodation, pricing, availability, and house rules. Listings include reviews from past guests.

  • Guests create a user account to search through available listings by destination and dates. They can filter by property type, price, amenities and other factors. 

  • Once guests find a listing they want, they send a booking request for the dates needed. If it’s instantly bookable, the booking is automatically confirmed. If not instant, hosts approve the request.

  • Payments happen through Airbnb’s secure payment platform. Hosts receive payouts 24 hours after guests check-in. A small service fee is charged to both parties.

  • User profiles build trust through verified IDs, reviews, and other vetting. Secure messaging happens between guests and hosts on the Airbnb platform.


Key Handover
Airbnb operates as a platform where hosts list their properties, and guests can directly book unique accommodations.

Overall, Airbnb’s platform facilitates payments, protection for both parties, and tools for hosts and guests to connect online and then in-person after booking.

Airbnb for Hosts


For hosts, Airbnb offers an opportunity to earn extra income by renting out a spare room of empty property. Some benefits of hosting on Airbnb include:


  • Earning Side Income: Hosts can make money every time they host a guest, with the potential to earn thousands per year.

  •   Meeting Travellers: Hosting gives hosts the chance to meet interesting people from around the world if they opt to rent out a spare room or handle the check-ins.

  • Setting Your Own Rules: Hosts choose when to host, which booking requests to accept, what house rules to set and more.

  • Little Upfront Costs: Signing up and listing space is free. There are few expenses to get started.

While hosting takes effort in cleaning, maintenance, communication and preparation between bookings, the flexibility and earning potential make it popular among a wide range of hosts.

Airbnb for Guests


For guests, Airbnb enables travellers to book affordable lodgings around the world that provide a more authentic, locally connected experience than hotels. Benefits guests enjoy include:


  • Lower Costs: Airbnb listings tend to cost much less per night compared to hotels in the same areas.

  • Experience Local Neighborhoods: Guests can truly live like a local by staying in a residential home or apartment.

  • Access Unique Listings: From a houseboat in Amsterdam to a castle in Scotland, Airbnb offers one-of-a-kind stays.

  • Home Comforts & Amenities: Full-home listings have homey touches like kitchens, laundry, outdoor space and room to relax.

  • Consistent Standards: Search filters and reading hosts’ prior reviews help match guests to listings meeting their needs.


With accommodation for all travel styles and budgets, plus tools to facilitate booking, Airbnb makes travel more accessible for guests across the globe.


How Does Airbnb Make Money?

Airbnb makes money by charging service fees from both guests and hosts. For each booking, Airbnb charges:

  • Guests: 5-15% of the reservation subtotal as a service fee, which covers running the marketplace. Additional fees apply for last-minute bookings and large groups.

  • Hosts: 3% hosting fee to cover operations, payment processing, insurance, 24/7 support, and other products that help hosts successfully rent their spaces. 


On an average booking, Airbnb takes 10-12% in combined service fees from both parties. With over two million bookings per day, these small slices add up to huge profits.

In addition to lodging marketplace service fees, Airbnb now offers hosts the option to pay for professional photography, extra visibility in search, and access to new products like AirCover for more protection. Offering premium add-on services to hosts provides another growing revenue stream for the platform.


Airbnb
Airbnb generates revenue through service fees on bookings from both guests and hosts.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Airbnb

Using Airbnb offers several key advantages:

  • Guests enjoy lower costs, one-of-a-kind stays, and local experiences staying in residential-style homes versus hotels. 

  • Hosts have opportunities to earn thousands in side-income annually with minimal upfront investment.

  • Airbnb opens tourism to more neighborhoods, spreading economic impact further than hotels alone.

However, there are also some disadvantages to consider:

  • Guests give up guaranteed standards and reliability they would have with hotel chains. Listing details and reviews helps but inconsistencies remain.

  • Hosts take on risks of property damage, local regulation issues if renting illegally, and dealing with problem guests. Income isn’t guaranteed either.

  • In popular destinations, over-tourism fuelled by homes converted to de facto hotels causes housing supply shortages and other issues faced by residents.


While Airbnb delivers unique advantages that fuelled incredible growth, as with any disrupter, the sharing economy model has created tensions as users, providers and communities adjust.


Airbnb
Airbnb revolutionized travel by offering unique stays and personalized experiences worldwide.

Airbnb Host Requirements

To become an Airbnb host, users must meet some basic requirements, including: 

  • Ownership or Permission to Sublet: Hosts must either own their space or have permission from owners, building management, and comply with local rental laws.

  • Agreement to Terms: Hosts must read and agree to Airbnb’s legally binding hosting agreement and terms of service.

  • Accurate Listing Details: Listings must accurately represent the rental space with photos and descriptions meeting Airbnb’s standards.

  • Response Rate Expectations: Hosts must reply to booking enquiries and messages within 24 hours and confirm reservation requests promptly.

  • Cleanliness Standards: Spaces must meet minimum cleanliness standards, with some preparation required between guest stays.

  • Commitment to Positive Experiences: Hosts should strive to give all guests a positive, welcoming, safe experience and five-star stay.


While anyone can create an Airbnb account quickly, actually becoming an active, successful host that delivers great guest experiences takes preparation understanding all requirements, risks and benefits involved. If you’d like to embrace the Airbnb business model, UpperKey can provide management services while you sit back and relax. We can also help boost your rental income potential!


Property Management and Airbnb Concierge Services

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