KEYSTONE, Colo. —
Like prospectors in these Rocky Mountains more than a century ago,
Airbnb showed up to this mountain town this week looking to stake its claim.
The home-rental service, which made its bones in cities,
is setting its sights on mountain resorts.
And unlike most lodging conferences where Airbnb is considered
Public Enemy #1, the company found a receptive audience at the Mountain Travel
The company struck a conciliatory chord of sorts during
conference presentations on Wednesday by expressing its efforts to provide a
fuller experience than merely providing a lodging unit.
Shaun Stewart, Airbnb’s
global head of vacation rentals, noted that he had arrived late the previous
night. While his Airbnb unit was fine, it could’ve been improved if the host
would’ve either stocked the fridge or left a list of local restaurants that are
“There’s a range of opportunities in the experience,”
Airbnb appeared to really go in for the proverbial kill
on Thursday. David Burden, Airbnb’s market manager of ski products, softened up
his breakout-discussion audience of about 60 people by saying he was “not going
to talk about millennials,” which generated applause. He then outlined the
company’s efforts to grow its presence in mountain resorts.
With about 810,000 vacation-rental units in U.S. mountain
resorts, Burden estimated that they generate more than $18 billion in annual
revenue. Unlike cities where hotels are king, condo-type multi-bedroom units
dominate in the mountains.
With that in mind, Burden said Airbnb last summer introduced
an application program interface (API) geared to help owners and management companies
generate more revenue by devising systems to better reach prospective guests
and track inventory.
So far, the plan appears to be working. While the number
of Airbnb’s urban units continue to dwarf the number of its mountain units,
Burden said the revenue that Airbnb's mountain-resort hosts generated in the
first quarter alone was about 75% of 2015’s full-year total.
Burden also offered tips on how owners can better sell
their properties. He recommended using the clearest and most flattering lead
image (or “hero image,” as he called it) on the site, and being flexible about
accepting one- or two-night bookings, especially during shoulder seasons.
“The best managers are willing to take shorter
length-of-stay agreements,” he said.
Still, Burden was modest, at least by Airbnb standards,
in regards to his company’s presence at mountain resorts, noting that “we’re
clearly not the industry leaders,” and Thursday’s audience appeared to bear him
out. When he asked for a show of hands of how many people working in the
accommodations sector were using Airbnb, just six of the 60 raised their hands.