A new essay on examining how Authentic your Airbnb is

Hi team Airhosts

Air market your Airbnb on your behalf as a slice of “authentic experience”. But what does that really mean?

I have been reading a book called Authenticity and in my way of understanding, it posted an article on Medium to see how it intersects with Airbnb wisdom.

Of course now I’ve published it, I can see a heap of typos. Looking forward to those red marker pens!:face_with_raised_eyebrow:

It’s difficult to read the real,real; real, fake; fake, real matrix, :neutral_face:but once you get your head around it I think it makes a lot of sense. :thinking:

What do you guys do to make your places feel authentic?

What do you think others do wrong in an attempt to be authentic?

Looking forward to your feedback…

Not quite sure what to say about the article. Lots of overanalizing. Keep it simple. Offer a clean ,fair priced space is how I remain authentic!


I think your intentions are good. The BMW reference is meaningful only if you know about the car’s history. The analysis involving the theater & bar is meaningful/relatable. Since this is about home rentals, examples of authentic rentals would be beneficial. Of course you can use fake examples.

For example, guest accomodations offered in an historic neighborhood with homes built in the 1800’s with period furniture but updated amenities would be authentic thus part of the rental experience.

In the Smokey mountains, a converted tobacco barn would be authentic.

At horse ranch in Texas, regional personality would make me think Ranch Bunk House. An Italian Villa wouldn’t be area or period authentic but may be authentic to the owner’s sense of humor or personal background. For people like me who like quirky, I would find it appealing.

My rentals are not in an area with a defined regional personality so like @MtnGal ‘s rentals, clean & in good working order are the expectations.

I appreciate the intention to help owners have the best property they can. Relatable examples will add value to the reader and make it feel less like an academic paper.

PS. I think you meant the bar is homey (not homely). Typo.

Interesting hypothesis… it did make us re-think our space, which is a bedroom and a private bath in the shared hallway. The bedroom is on the small side, and we have recently changed it to minimum 2 nights due to our insurance requirements.

This is changing the flavor of people coming ~ what used to be a lot of one night stays, which was fine for a smaller space, to people being here for several days, with more of a live-in requirement.

So our challenge is to authentically offer a room to our guests that meet their needs, which means we will need to make the space feel larger than it is, and also more comfortable.

A good starting point for the New Year!!!

1 Like

Thanks for your feedback it is all valuable.

@MtnGal my intention is not to over analyse its trying to understand what guests mean when they say they want authentic. If it were just the functional aspects of price and facilities then we would simply not be able to compete with what we in the UK call Travellodge soul-less hotels.

@Annet3176 I worried about using the BMW mini. I own a Mini and frankly have just “upgraded” to the Countryman so I thought is was a good example, but it turns out its a bit too personal. The example that P+G use is about country music, which I guess is more suited to the US thinking. They argue that if you had a musician who was classically trained at a school to play Country, there would still be people that argue that the music was not authentic because she did not come from (insert a place in the US where country music is authentic). The point is that she could NEVER be considered authentic by some because of her heritage.

I was trying to use examples that were close to what we hosts could be doing. Ie we provide accommodation with a tourist related experience.

My thinking from what you are saying is adapting…

My argument is that most hosts think that to be genuinely authentic they have an Airbnb that is what it says it is (a tobacco barn) AND have it located in the smokey mountains.

But look at the Globe theatre in London the original was built in 1599 but it burned down in 1613. So another one was built but this one was closed in 1642. The one in the photo was actually built in 1997 a FAKE!

However, because the business operating it is true to itself it pulls off the feeling of authenticity.

So it follows that if Italy is your “thing” you could totally recreate an Italian Villa in Texas… or say the Nevada dessert, Las Vegas.

The trick that Vegas generally have is that they are totally upfront about what they are “faking”… unlike the London Dungeon that I use in the essay. The Dungeon has a successful business of sorts, but its my guess that they struggle more to attract people than the London Tombs, The Globe Theatre or the Bloomsbury Pub. That’s because in the modern era, people take to social media the moment that the thing they have been sold is considered Fake.

I’ve heard of people theming their Airbnb as a Star Wars, Marvel, Punk music. I think that this is a step in the right direction SO LONG as the people running them are TRUE to themselves ie they are Star Wars, Marvel, Doctor Who, fans. If they aren’t then the stuff they exhibit needs to be official relics otherwise it will be considered an in-authentic hustle (FAKE:FAKE).

@billtroyer thanks for your feedback.

Remember that most hotels are only a single room, so guests are not just interested in floor space. My essay is trying to get you to think of an authentic experience that is a representation of what your Airbnb is or what is part of your values.

The idea is authentic offering distracts your guest from the pragmatic size of the property.

For example. In my small onsite Airbnb I have a projector TV. I leave a collection of DVDs bottle of beer and popcorn. The idea is that guests feel they have a mini cinema experience.

In one of my whole houses I leave the ingredients, recipe and machine to bake bread.

Another listing has a collection of vintage vinyl and record player.

All of these ideas are true to me as I love movies, baking and 1980s music.

@Annet3176, “homely” works here, as @PaulRanson is using it in the British style - “(of a place or surroundings) simple but cozy and comfortable, as in one’s own home”.
It is Americans who make homely an unpleasant word. :slight_smile:

1 Like

I never really considered the authentic Hamilton Ontario experience. It’s a steel town with a history of hard knocks and insults. But the kindnesses and generosity run very deep. I will explore this more. Thank you!


We just spent Christmas on the Queen Mary; the last of the huge post-deco pre-war ocean liners. It was cool and interesting to be there. It’s just amazing that she still floats in the 1st place<><> she held the Tran-Atlantic record both directions for quite a while. There were a majority of beautiful real and far fewer fake parts. I think the real parts were most memorable and stunning, like the beautiful woodwork and the artwork we saw in the huge ballrooms; ( usually just by chance as we didn’t purposely join a tour). The feeling of being a part of a bygone era was palpable and made me want to dress up!
The 1st thing that accosted my senses negatively was right in front of reception , a grossly made and decorated large ( German Style ) Christmas Carousel. Their Christmas tree must have fallen over or become a liability, but That Thing was… And I have a real one here so I know how bad it was !!!

I think they are struggling and trying pretty hard to capitalize on the ship, and it is incredibly interesting and especially down in the dregs of the engine room, very very authentic!!

In our case, with our listing, I am a real stickler for authenticity. I am totally into "one of a kind " stuff that no-one else has any way of even (wanting or) getting. I found much to build from scratch etc, and strove mighty hard to make it unique. Its realness is undoubtable; planting a 1954 aluminum trailer from Oklahoma in the desert of California may seem crazy, but like the song goes … nothing if it ain’t real…
and Paul thanks again for the articles:) always food for thought!!


After thinking about this subject, imho, I see that it is architecturally speaking, an identity thing. Some structures and homes just have a stronger feeling and actual identity than others, this is usually linked to their age, and the craftsmanship and thought that goes into their being. Some (misguided I think) owners try to fight this or think for example they can change a 1930’s Spanish into a Modern Box.

There are many poor and also many semi acceptable ways to “put lipstick on a pig”.

My home ( being a modular and plain) had no identity. I was lucky, I could choose to and did give it the one I prefer. Most places have an intrinsic self that can be brought out and encouraged and then the authenticness (it’s a word) is enhanced. Once you try to make it something its not, then you get a lot of mixed signals visually or otherwise within or around such places.

During our trailer zone project, I only added a subtle undertone of (mostly outdoor and in Babe, the little trailer) Asiatic décor, because that’s what I started with that was cool but free… keeping it and other items mostly within the age/ era of the big Spartan trailer. But of course the personal wishes were met too, and I think, the result though a little mixed (Not Eclectic) is heavenly. TO EACH their own!! +may All projects look toward individuality and realness.

1 Like

Projector tv with popcorn and beer??? Sounds awesome! HOw many listings you got anyway<><>
Has anybody seen Roma??
Fantastic on the big screen.

We got a 24" smart tv for the listing, but haven’t even tried it yet…

Shooting an album cover on our property tomorrow and my friend the famous photographer I hope will take a few interesting shots of the listing…
well they even did it it the rain upon the rocks nearby, crazy costumes! Back tomorrow for trailer shots!

1 Like

@gypsy For my dissertation, I have been reading about the philosophy of Plato. He describes objects as having an essence that people can sense but can’t see. Without sounding too hippy, I think that this is an expression of “love”. Products that have bee crafted, like you are doing in your Airbnb and the wood panelling in the cruise ship are were made by people with love. The Christmas carousel is likely not to have been motivated by love. Being that I am one for evidence, there is research to back this up

Here’s an open source version of the paper by [Fuchs, C., Schreier] that describes research into this.

I believe all people can sense this using what Kahneman calls fast thinking.

Back in the day when we were cave people, we developed clever ways to work out if a situation was risky. Ie is the person place before us dangerous. I think that as we have evolved, in modern times this threat assessment of place/person/experience includes a fear of being ripped off.

The matrix that I show in my essay has the Globe theatre and Bloomsbury pub presenting something that does not present a threat because they have managed to curate authentic aura that shows they are true to themselves…

Since reading thru this thread, my new thinking is emerging. The successful hosts demonstrate platonic love in their passionate rendering of their Airbnb. This is expressed by terms such as “value” and “clean” “honest”. I think that this is sensed by potential guests as being none threatening.

I believe that this is something Artisans naturally do as I wrote about in my article about the artisan hotelier

I think that as small hoteliers, we can lean on this in ways that are hard to replicate by corporates.

If we as Airbnb hosts can project love thru our listings then it will increase the value of our offerings beyond simply clean value honest accommodation.

I truly believe has got to help elevate their Airbnb from being a side hustle.

@Annet3176 thanks for your feedback. I have iterated my article now to accommodate what you suggest. CHeers!
@lawre I have altered my essay due to your insight into the unpleasantry :wink:

@gypsy I have just been given this page by Airbnb https://www.airbnb.co.uk/users/10589285/listings

Holly’s house is my friend’s place, she lets me co-host while she is away.


Hi Paul I checked out your listings. They are so nice.
Just curious can you give your guests pizza and beer legally as part of your package?
Can’t quite fathom this being possible here in the usa without some sort of fancy kitchen or license.


Interesting thought & that we subconsciously recognize when someone is behaving with love and recognize when they are NOT.

  1. My mother (who is dearly missed) told me if you meet someone who makes you uncomfortable, listen to that feeling. See Mother was always right!

  2. I love my beach condos. I actually like my tiny one bedroom better (for many reasons it holds a special place in my heart).

Guests comment often they appreciate the thoughtfulness behind what is included.

Also guests who have stayed in both the one bedroom condo and the 2 bedroom condo EVERY TIME say they like the space of the 2 BR but there is something about the 1 BR they like better.

So is premise “to thy own self be true” and it will be authentic?


@gypsy suspect that the same rules exist here. But I don’t think I should be a threat to the authorities. I leave the pizza and beer as a free gift along with water, soda and milk and coffee. The pizza is frozen and has frozen french fries (UK chips) toi so. It’s effectively me doing the shopping for my guests. I’d hope there should be no argument from food standards because of this. :hugs:

@Annet3176 I love the passion that comes thru in your post. This is definitely a way authenticity can be communicated.

Have you written this in your Airbnb description I wonder?

The reviews your guests leave will be a great way of communicating this to future ones too. I wonder if when you prompt them to write reviews you could use this story to encourage a humanised review.

One thing I have realised in my dissertation is that the Airbnb review system asks us to review people and guests to review a hybrid of location settings and services. It feels intuitive to me that guests are more included to leave positive reviews of people. It’s easier to leave a negative review of an inanimate object.

The quote about to my own self be true is what Taleb would describe as a golden rule. These are rules of thumb or heuristics that guide our fast thinking. He argues that these sort of mantra have been engrained in our collective culture by millennia of teachings that they are effective second nature. People have developed a sense that is tuned to detect when individuals are not true to themselves.

Here is his book. It’s a tough read but very interesting. It gives a new insight into how we see patterns where they don’t exist.

Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0141031484/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_2oDmCbGFW58VT

1 Like

Getting a doctorate in Airbnb?

@Kingi just a Masters :grinning::sunglasses:


Interesting question.

In my guestbook welcome part of the message is the condo is special to me because “I used a small inheritance for the down payment. … I think she would like it here.” And “I hope you can return and see how the condo improves as I am able to do updates”.

The kitchen was definitely stuck in 1993 with 25 year old appliances and more. The bathroom was the same. No one has commented about the condo needing updates. I have seen the “updates needed” comment on several other rentals of the same age in my area.

The ‘Tale of a Trailer’ and other non-fiction memoire type stories will be available in the handbook binder in the listing:)
Those books by that author look amazing.