analysis from Transparent illustrates a contrast in the alternative
accommodation space related to host size and both the quality and number of reviews
for their properties.
data from July from Airbnb, Vrbo, Booking.com and Tripadvisor, hosts with fewer properties have higher review scores and more reviews per property than those managing
across these four platforms, hosts with one listing have an average review score
of 4.8 and 18.6 reviews per listing, whereas hosts with more than 1,000
properties have an average score of 4.45 and just 5.3 reviews per property.
Some of the
explanations for this are fairly logical. Regarding review count, hosts with thousands
of properties are likely professional management companies using numerous
distribution channels for each unit.
of Airbnb and Booking and Vrbo and others as just one of the many ways they distribute
their inventory. And sometimes people book with them directly. The consequence of
that is the number of reviews they get and the number of reservations they get
from any one distribution channel is necessarily less,” says Drew Patterson, co-founder
and executive chairman of Transparent.
While the range
in average review scores – from a low of 4.45 to a high of 4.8 - is relatively
small, Christophe Salmon, founder of short-term rental review aggregator Revyoos, says it is partly attributable to the personal
touch provided by an individual homeowner.
can make the difference. A personal owner that does everything by themselves has
a very present and fluid conversation with the guest and makes the process more
personal, whereas with a large property manager things are more industrial with
different people that the guest is in touch with,” he says.
“It’s also easier to give a bad review when you don’t have any
personal touch with the property owner.”
the reasoning behind the data, there is no doubt reviews – both quantity and
quality – matter in the rental sector.
new data from Phocuswright’s
U.S. Short-Term Rentals 2021 report coming out in November and based on a study
with short-term rental users and hosts, 29% of consumers say they look at
review scores when comparing rentals of similar value and comfort, making it
the second most popular factor next to strong Wi-Fi.
And one way travelers
use reviews is to determine if a property meets their specific needs.
example, 40% of travelers who worked remotely say they seek out properties
with good reviews from other remote working travelers,” says Madeline List, a Phocuswright
Reviews also affect revenue. In an analysis of Airbnb data
from April for the United States, France, Spain, Great Britain and Italy, Transparent
found a correlation between reviews and occupancy. Across all markets, listings
with a 4.7 rating or higher had an average 5% higher occupancy. And regarding
number of reviews, in the United States, properties with one to five reviews
averaged 57% occupancy while those with 21 or more reviews averaged 71%
factor into the ranking algorithms used by platforms such as Vrbo, Booking.com
and Airbnb - setting up a domino effect of more booking and even more reviews. Vrbo
also uses reviews as one criteria for
its Fast Start program, launched in April, that gives an elevated position
to new properties that have a rating of 4.5-plus on other travel sites.
property manager himself, launched Revyoos in 2020 as a review aggregator for rentals
to help properties boost their SEO, conversion and credibility. But, he
says, the online travel agencies define how review content can be used by a property owner, a clear
indication of its significance.
are so valuable that even OTAs have terms and conditions where they prevent us
from displaying our own reviews on our own website,” he says.
“We think it’s absolutely crazy, these abusive terms and conditions,
but this is what we all sign when we publish with them. So we can only display
the star rating and number of reviews but not the content of reviews themselves.”
that comes up again and again in discussions about reviews related to the
rental sector is trust.
Some of the
very things that factor into the appeal of rentals – uniqueness, the personal
touch of hosts, etc. – also mean the reviews of prior guests carry extra clout.
a short-term rental – it’s kind of weird – you’re going to stay in someone’s
house,” Patterson says.
happens on the other side if you can get over that hurdle, but you’ve got to
get over that hurdle. And this social trust that comes from reviews – that’s
how people are getting over that hurdle. That’s why it matters.”
critical step for property managers, says Salmon, is simply to ask all guests
to leave a review. Beyond that, he says responding to all reviews, displaying
verified review scores from OTAs and showing less-than-perfect reviews are additional
ways to engender trust.
you only have a few bad reviews, it does nothing but give more credibility to
the high volume of good reviews. Things happen and if you have hundreds of
reviews, it’s impossible to have all five stars,” he says.
some companies in the rental sector are attempting to foster trust by
guaranteeing guests a degree of standardization and consistency across their
properties – in effect occupying that middle ground between a hotel and a
Patterson says Transparent’s data that shows lower review scores for properties
from large management companies indicates that standardization may not be what
consumers want – or at least not what consumers who book through the large OTAs
“At the very
least, you have to look at this data and say how do I reconcile this claim of
consumers want the consistency of a brand like a Vacasa or Sonder or even these
large, branded property managers, and yet they find those things less favorable
when they encounter them on Airbnb and others ... than they find the heterogeneous
but personal experiences offered by individual hosts,” he says.
“If anything, all of this just reinforces the fact that the platforms are right to
deprioritize large property managers.”