Critical 7 Checks On Airbnb vs Booking.com For Owners: The Sad Truth As One Is Too Risky
Introduction To Airbnb vs Booking.com For Owners
Have you ever walked in a cool pine forest high in the mountains? You are dressed for the occasion, the air is fresh and your mind is at peace. An hour or two later you arrive at your destination it felt like a second.
I am sure you have walked down a dark road and felt uneasy – not life-threatening – just a little worried; you know there is a treasure at the end but is it worth the risk? It’s a little chilly.
You may ask what has this to do with “Airbnb vs Booking.com For Owners”?
Well, today we will talk about walking along with Airbnb vs Booking.com for owners roads. And you can decide which of Airbnb or Booking.com is the pristine pine forest walk.
We Stopped Walking Along With One.
As a short term rental agency in Cape Town, we have used both; for a long time. But we stopped using one; today you’ll quickly gather which one we will never use again.
Airbnb vs Booking.com Onboarding
You get modern and you get archaic with teeth. Let’s go…
The dumbest host can list their property on Airbnb in a few keystrokes.
Airbnb makes the general setup easy but does hide a few settings from hosts to favour the guest (for example setting strict cancellation, and setting check out times). It’s no train smash if you are aware…
If you are an agency, like us, listing one Airbnb home is as easy as listing 200. And everything you would ever need is under one roof. I’ll not elaborate, but let me say it’s an amazing tool to manage all your homes or just one.
Booking.com An Adapted Hotel Booking Platform
Booking.com was designed for hotels with 1000s of rooms; under every account, you’ll find one “hotel”. And if you manage 1000s of rooms, great. But if you manage more than one self catering home you have to create a separate “hotel” account for each.
Let me put it in other words; there is no “umbrella” to view all your bookings, listing performances, income etc. It’s a tedious process and a trap for mistakes.
No, you need to log into each. It’s not designed for short term rentals. It’s not intuitive. And, on top of it, it’s designed way-back-when. Frustrating and risky as you can imagine, only realising an expensive error when a guest reserves your home.
Type Of Guests: Airbnb vs Booking.com (Expectations)
Way before Airbnb, Booking.com was the only major online player for hotels. Self-catering was still the orphaned child.
And many (hotel) guests got used to Booking.com. They loved the functionality. And it’s guest-centricity.
These traditional Booking.com guests would search Booking.com for a hotel (their expectation) and then see these catering homes amongst the hotels. And then reserve their “hotel”.
Surprise Surprise! Your Self Catering Home Is Not A Hotel.
When they arrive they expect hotel treatment; daily cleaning, breakfast etc. This created a lot of conflict and bad reviews from angry guests.
Airbnb Offer Guests What They Expect
Airbnb guests understand (mostly) that Airbnb is self catering.
This is what they want and what they get. If there is an expectation issue it’s mostly with first-timers on Airbnb. There is a clever way out.
Airbnb has an intuitive way of informing hosts of newbie-guests and we can, therefore, address their expectations; “you know you’ll not be staying at a place with daily cleaning and no breakfast?”
This allows us to get the important 5-star reviews as guests don’t get surprised (whereas with Booking.com hosts have no way of telling potential guests what to expect).
Vetting Of Guests: Airbnb vs Booking.com
Vetting guests is one of the most important issues for any caring host to take note of when comparing Airbnb vs Booking.com:
I am not going into all the details other than focusing on a few core criteria.
Can A Host Review A Guest At Booking.com?
Can Hosts Review A Guest At Airbnb?
These answers/questions reveal the reason why Airbnb is the least risky when you compare Airbnb vs Booking.com.
What Happens When A Host Reviews A Guest In Public?
Guests start to behave themselves. They care about their Airbnb profile. And who would like a 1-star review if they can get a 5-star review? No one.
Not only do guests not like a bad review; because the review has consequences to do future bookings. More later.
We had a few Bookings.com guests who stayed over the years and nearly trashed the place.
Yes, the breaking deposit covered some. But with Airbnb, we don’t get this kind of behaviour.
Power Of Reviews
After many years it became evident that reviewing a guest has more power than keeping a large breakage deposit.
If you care about your home choose a guest who will take care of your home. And I am implying guests who can be reviewed take better care than those who are not.
Host Payouts: Airbnb vs Booking.com
With Airbnb you get your money on time; a day after arrival they release it, depending on if it is a working day. And then it takes a day or two to arrive at the bank.
Booking.com is a mess. At least for South Africans. There are various options. We used to collect after the reservation.
But the guest already added his credit card details (only) to Booking.com. But most think payment was made. When you ask them, eventually, to pay (again) they start asking lots of questions.
Then we decided to allow Booking.com to collect payment on our behalf. They collect but only pay you somewhere in the month after the guests arrive. An admin nightmare to keep track of who paid what.
With Airbnb you know you’ll get your money and when. With booking.com you always have a little worry.
Instant Booking: Airbnb vs Booking.com For Owners
Now you know that guests are reviewed on Airbnb. But that’s not all; the guest is also rated out of 5 by the host. This is important.
Let me give you Booking.com’s instant book first:
It does not matter how good or bad the guest is, the guest can reserve your Booking.com home. You have no history to verify. It’s instant irrespective of good or bad.
If you establish after the booking that the guest may be risky the onus is on you to prove it. Convincing Booking.com that the guests are potentially bad is another fight. It’s just your bad luck.
The Modern Airbnb Alternative To Instant Bookings.
Airbnb gives you two ways to accept guest reservations: instant bookings and enquire first.
Instant bookings are by far the best option. Why? With Airbnb’s technology integrated with reviews, you get the best of both worlds.
When you select Instant Book at Airbnb you have an option to disallow people to instantly book who have poor review scores and have no reviews.
Interrogating Bad Guests Before Airbnb Instant Book
These risky guests are allowed to enquire. This gives the host an opportunity to read the “bad” guest’s reviews and ask questions. After this interrogation, the host can decide to allow or decline the guest with no penalties.
Gather & Manage Expectations From New Airbnb Guests
If guests have 3 or fewer reviews they have to enquire first and cannot instantly book. They request a reservation.
Again, the host can ask questions, see what the guest expects and address concerns before they book. If they are risky you can decline without penalty.
Obviously, Booking.com Instant Book Risk Is Incalculably Higher Than Airbnb
Well, you don’t have to believe me. Try it out yourself. But before you do search Google for all the wrecks; owners getting scammed, robbed etc, by Booking.com guests. And I am not saying things cannot happen with an Airbnb guest, but scammed by an Airbnb? No.
We, as an Airbnb Rental Agency in Cape Town, would not list any home on Booking.com. And if an owner insists then we would rather walk away today than disappoint them later.
Host Guarantee, Liability And Insurance: Airbnb vs Booking.com For Owners
When the STUFF hits the fan you don’t want to be on the wrong side. It can be messy.
Unfortunately, Booking.com has no host cover. Nothing.
Why Do Booking.com Ignore These Risks To Hosts?
I cannot tell you.
My opinion is that they are ignorant or arrogant. And therefore force you to do your own protection. Read what hosts asked.
If you must use Booking.com, know that you are exposed. Any damage recovery, above and beyond your breakage deposit, will depend on the goodwill of the guest and your willingness to take legal action. I said it’s a mess.
Airbnb’s AirCover For Full Protection Of Owners
You want liability cover, damage protection – beyond your breakage deposit, any pet damage, even loss of income due to damage. And you get it with Aircover.
Airbnb host protection is a no brainer.
And you may think Airbnb paid me to write this. Hahaha. I wish. But it’s amazing. Read more.
Watch this short video if you are in a hurry.
You don’t want risky exposure.
Our thought has always been that we want to be the best. If we have to be the best while exposing your home to uncovered damages and liabilities we would rather close shop.
Airbnb vs Booking.com Calendar Glitches & Support
A Story: Auto Open Of Calendars: Airbnb vs Booking.com For Owners
I believe I have shared enough evidence that Airbnb is where you need to invest.
But let me share one last story.
We managed a fancy home in Constantia. We decided to list our properties on Booking.com as well.
We Made A Booking.com Mistake And They Pulled Out The T&Cs
We did not understand Booking.com and made a mistake. Over peak normally we set a minimum of 10 nights. And the rest of the year we set a 4 night minimum stay.
But this home I dropped the ball and left it 4 nights. A guest booked 4 nights after Christmas. And the owner went berserk. And it continued for very long.
We tried to get Booking.com to cancel the reservation.
“Strictly no”, they said.
You will only get a cancellation if they can find alternative accommodation which the guest must be happy with. If the accommodation is more expensive the host must pay the difference.
For brevity, I’ll just mention that we got out with no scars. Now let’s consider a similar issue at Airbnb:
Airbnb Cancellations Due To Host Errors
Everyone can make a mistake. And I find it difficult with people or businesses who expect 100% precision. Airbnb knows my type.
Airbnb has various incentives like Superhost. But to be a Superhost you cannot have more than 3 host cancellations a year.
I had a similar error at Airbnb. The rates defaulted to the base rate 12 months in advance.
I contacted Airbnb and within 10 minutes the booking was cancelled. Airbnb asked me to explain to the guest. And then did what was needed. Airbnb also decided not to penalise us for the cancellation.
No pain. No aggravation. Just a process with consequences if we repeat.
Conclusion On Airbnb vs Booking.com For Owners
We started this discussion walking peacefully amongst the mystic pine forest roads.
Then there was the spine chilling dark road. We have done this unsure dark road. It could maybe bring in more money but at what risk? It’s not for us or our owners.
Tips And Alternatives To Airbnb
- To have all your eggs in the Airbnb basket is not ideal. I suggest having a direct booking site as we have here.
- Have an email newsletter and direct all previous guests to your direct booking site.
- Network with other agents in the region and offer them a commission when they rent out your homes.
- Some of the best short-term rental agents, in Cape Town, list our homes on their sites and send us guests.
- Tripadvisor, Safarinow and others like LekkerSlaap are intensive to set up and keep updated. Unfortunately, these sites all have archaic calendar integration and no instant rate updates. And they contribute less than 1% of all our reservations.
- Most important: Become an expert with Airbnb; understand pricing and what makes your listing reach the top. And you’ll do so well at the least effort with very little risk. And ride the wave while it lasts.
Thanks for reading. Appreciated. Did you learn anything? Will you list your home with Booking.com? Do you think this comparison on Airbnb vs Booking.com for owners was reasonably objective or way too lenient on Booking.com (or Airbnb)?
Johan Horak is an experience creator at Cape Town Airbnb Rental Agency.
P.S. When I decided to write this article on “Airbnb vs Booking.com for owners”, some memories returned from the bad experiences we had with Booking.com.