By Kacey Bradley

Airbnb has become a popular site for travelers who want an authentic and memorable experience. The hotel alternative has become so popular that it has grown to more than 6 million properties across 191 countries in as little as 12 years. With no recognizable brand name or structured expectations, what is it that attracts guests to the site?

From reviews and photos to enhanced personalization through data collection, Airbnb utilizes several tactics to attract potential guests and turn them into loyal bookers. Hoteliers can learn to enhance their own guest experience by learning a lesson from Airbnb’s approach.

1. Offer Access to Reviews

Reviews from verified travelers are one of Airbnb’s main features. They take away uncertainty about booking a property, as guests can gain insight from others’ firsthand experiences. According to one survey, 95% of surveyed travelers say they read reviews before booking. To guests, hotels that don’t have any — or worse, those with obviously fake ones — are an indication to stay away.

2. Provide Plenty of Photos

Beyond reviews, photos are another important thing for travelers looking to make room reservations. Pictures, which act as a visual reference, play a part in creating guest expectations before booking. Most Airbnb listings are accompanied by dozens of images, giving a detailed look at all angles of the rental.

In contrast, hotels typically offer just a few photos, and not of the specific room a guest will stay in. Offer as many high-resolution images as possible to better accommodate guests, including various room types and available amenities.

3. Open Lines of Communication

After making a reservation on Airbnb, guests immediately gain access to a text chat with the property manager. Travelers can easily ask questions about their rental and the area they’re visiting. For many, this method of communication is easier than picking up the phone.

Cater to guest expectations by offering multiple lines of communication, including phone, email and text chat. This allows them to get answers without having to wait on hold. Text chat can also be used to facilitate communication between visitors and the front desk once checked in.

4. Be Honest and Transparent

Hotels are transparent in that they offer photos of the in-house swimming pool, restaurant and a standard room. However, the transparency provided by Airbnb is more personal and honest. It feels like a natural conversation between two people instead of a business transaction. While Airbnb properties ultimately make money, they put the aim on the guest experience instead of the bottom dollar.

To provide a more human connection, speak openly on your website. Get personal with your hotel’s story, including how you’ve previously listened to guest feedback to make necessary improvements.

5. Create a Personal Experience

Hotels often struggle with offering guests a personalized experience. For many travelers, a stay with Airbnb differs from the cookie-cutter expectations of an established brand. To mitigate this stereotype, hotels need to engage with customers before they book.

Property management software like Cloudbeds and Hotelogix allow hotels to automate processes and gather data on the entire customer experience, from researching where to stay to check-out time. Personalization through data can also play an important role in increasing repeat bookings and guest loyalty.

6. Deliver the Latest Look

One thing all Airbnb listings offer is information on the most recent updates and improvements. Some of the most common upgrades made by Airbnb property owners are wood laminate flooring, the inclusion of a coffee cart and new bathroom tile.

This technique can be used by hotels as well. Consider renovations aimed at increasing guest conveniences, such as added storage space or a kitchenette with a coffee maker. Don’t be afraid to boast about the improvements on your website.

7. Provide the Human Touch

With Airbnb, booking and communication are all done online, but the digital activity is balanced out by a personal meet-and-greet once the guest arrives. Most times, people meet the property owner and can stay in contact throughout the stay easily. This one-on-one experience is personal, something guests ultimately seek.

While some hotels may be quick to install software that eliminates the need for human interaction, it’s important to keep in mind that hotel staff is essential to making guests feel at home.

What Hoteliers Can Learn from Airbnb

Reviews, photos, transparency and more — all these factors indicate that guests want to be knowledgeable about what they are getting into. They want to know they are spending hard-earned money on an experience they will enjoy. Unfortunately, nothing is more disappointing than a hotel lacking photos, reviews or information.

When hotels fail to provide transparency, guests will shy away in favor of more reliable options. Management can fight back by creating open and honest experiences guests can depend on.