Great travel advisors know that they have to field virtually any request a client comes in with. They don’t have to necessarily fulfill it, but knowing how to respond is vital to ensuring one’s credibility as an expert.
So, how to field the question of booking an apartment through Airbnb, the home-sharing network that’s wildly popular with Millennials? We asked our most recent honorees of Travel Agent magazine’s 30Under30 program how they handle the question.
Mackenzie Melfa of Accent On Travel in Towson, MD, says she gets asked about Airbnb all the time and embraces it, since she books it herself at certain times.
“The way I make it profitable is by charging a service fee for the time spent finding viable options for them. It’s $50 an hour for me to research and email apartments to my clients. I do not book them for my clients but do use all of my resources to make sure they are located in the perfect spot. I always give fair warning that what they see might not be what they get but I’ve never had any major issues recommending apartment rentals,” says Melfa.
When crafting a trip for a client through Europe, Melfa makes it a point to meld apartment stays in with luxury hotel bookings “to give a good romantic balance to the trip. Between our service fee and the commission from the hotels it’s always profitable,” she says.
Ben Price of SmartFlyer in New York takes a different stance on Airbnb.
“I think there will always be a subset of travelers who would prefer an Airbnb experience. And frankly, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s just not for me,” says Price. “For anyone coming to me with an Airbnb request, my first order of business is to try to push them to One Fine Stay (a Virtuoso partner with an Airbnb model). Otherwise, I often tell my clients that renting a flat in a foreign city isn’t as sexy as it sounds. You arrive and you ask yourself, where’s the shampoo? Who do I call for extra towels? Geez, I wish I had a concierge to get my reservations at XYZ…and so on… Like a lot of things in the industry, clients think they want one thing but really want another. I push my style of travel regardless: a luxury hotel experience.”
Karina Martinez of First in Service Travel in New York does not book Airbnb for her clients.
“As a travel coordinator, I can’t send my client into a stranger’s home where I simply don’t know what to expect,” she says. “There is a chance the owner will not be responsive or take responsibility if something goes wrong and that is not a risk I can take. Whenever possible, I offer alternatives such as OneFineStay. I know the homes are handpicked and they offer hotel-like services.”