Entrepreneur and Seasoned Airbnb host tells Beyond Pricing secrets of his STR success

We love connecting with our customers to learn more about their journey as a host and the impact using Beyond Pricing has had on their business. Recently we caught up with Simon Lewis, entrepreneur, digital marketer, and tourism professional, to learn about his experience as a host in Cape Town, South Africa. Simon has been renting out his apartment on Airbnb since 2012 and started using dynamic pricing with Beyond Pricing in May 2019.

He shared his learnings over the years with us that essentially boil down to two pieces of advice: treat your guests like visitors in your home, and your listing like a business.

Simon fell into the STR business naturally. As a travel industry veteran, in the early years of Airbnb he quickly identified he could make more money listing his apartment in Cape Town than it would cost to rent an entire new apartment for himself.

And he knew how to market his space. By curating the listing profile as his own home and positioning himself as your local guide, Simon claims he was able to draw in more guests and get more bookings.

Every detail of Simon’s listing, Top Floor Apartment With Home Office & Fiber WIFI, displays just that. His photos are professional, bright, and clean yet cozy. He also includes a familiar-feeling slideshow of his favorite spots near his apartment, with captions like “Mountain Views from my doorstep” and “Enjoy sundowner hikes easily as Lions Head (mountain) is walkable from the apartment...”. This helps to make you both feel like an insider to a place halfway across the world (one that knows words like “sundowner” and has a favorite local watering hole) and excited about the adventures you could have near Simon’s apartment, adventures he has already started to plan out for you.

While we chatted with Simon, he also stressed how important it is to be friendly and prompt in communication with guests, whether remotely or in person. He noted he offers advice on how to get to and from the airport and the best activities in and around Cape Town, and when he’s in town, he’ll show the guests around the neighborhood if they want. In his public Airbnb profile, he includes that “if you need some insider tips for the city or ideas of others places to travel in South Africa, ask away as I am happy to help.” When communicating with a new guest, he typically signs off with: “I hope you enjoy my home.”

He claims this homey feel he has cultivated not only results in more 5-star reviews, but also generates a sense of shared ownership with his guests, and knowing they are in someone else’s home, they are more likely to respect the space.

Case in point: one stormy night in Cape Town, the electricity in Simon’s apartment blew. He wasn’t around, but his Aussie guest reached out to let him know. Not only was his guest understanding about the mishap, but as Simon was arranging for an electrician to come by, his guest offered to fix it himself for free as he appreciated staying in someone's home  (he was an electrician by trade). That’s what community looks like in the sharing economy.

Through authentic marketing and genuine communication, Simon was able to stay competitive and satisfied with the extra income. However, as he learned a few years into hosting, there are many levers you can (and should) pull to improve your listing’s performance and lift your overall revenue. One aspect Simon wishes he got the hang of sooner? Pricing.

“I wish I had treated [my listing] more like a business, I was thinking it was just a little pot of gold,” Simon explains. “Until I started [with Beyond Pricing], I didn’t know [how much money I could actually make].”

This became clear to Simon as Cape Town embraced the sharing economy and the market became saturated with Airbnbs -- his booking pace started to slow, and he found it increasingly difficult to compete with the many new listings cropping up. Asking his friend in the industry for advice on how to improve, the instant response was, “use Beyond Pricing.” Shortly after, the bookings started coming in, and Simon saw his best winter season yet.

“[Generally] April is the last month [in Cape Town] and then it dies,” Simon described to us the status quo he had come to accept as standard in his market for the past six years. “But using Beyond Pricing, I got 10 inquiries and 7 bookings throughout winter, which is unheard of. They were solid bookings, too -- a week, a 25 day booking -- obviously not at the highest rates, but in the winter season we’ll take any cash we can.”

Simon illustrates our key philosophy around dynamic pricing: by raising and lowering rates depending on demand factors including Seasonality, Day of the Week, and Local Events, Beyond Pricing helps you get booked at the best price at the best time.

That means that during times of high demand we optimize for Average Daily Rate (ADR) and you might take fewer bookings than you are used to, and during times of low demand we optimize for higher occupancy and you might get booked at lower rates than you’re used to. Finding the right balance of average daily rate (ADR) and occupancy is how we help you maximize your revenue from a pricing point of view.
Thank you for your time and sharing your story, Simon! For more tips on how to enhance your listing, see our article What can I do to optimize the performance of my listing?, and for information on how to get started with Beyond Pricing, see our best practices for new users here.

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