Questioning Direct Bookings And Proposing Looping Acquisition Ideas


I read 96% of all Airbnb hosts are happy with Airbnb. Or rather that Airbnb is a resilient platform and even if hosts were upset with the COVID cancellation policies they will stay. (See here for the Airbnb boss who said they are resilient )
What I share is not ideal for people who don’t have time to work hard at marketing to set these loops up.


  1. I don’t think it’s ideal for people who do this part time with a room or two sharing their home.

  2. Rather, it’s for the professional host with a few or many listings. And it’s not a magic solution.

  3. It’s not based on luck but on science and tweaking variables. And obviously this is only ideal for a few hosts.

  4. It’s not about more diversification. That’s a given.

  5. When you comment please share how many listings you have and if you are a professional host.

NOTE! This Is NOT a post to complain about Airbnb and their policies. You can do that elsewhere. This post is intended to find direct booking solutions.

The first two questions I want to ask are to set the scene. Then I’ll get to direct bookings questions.

  1. If you were in Airbnb shoes at the time (COVID). You had to decide who to sacrifice, why would Airbnb sacrifice guests? Because guests will never use Airbnb again and they will tell millions about their bad treatment. They don’t need Airbnb to travel. It’s nice but they have options.

  2. If Airbnb had to decide between the fire and the deep blue sea why did they decided to sacrifice hosts? Are hosts [too] dependent? (What Airbnb calls resilient) and the least risk. Not good. But in the end, this bad decision could be the reason why Airbnb will relaunch with excellent results for hosts.

  3. Back to direct bookings. It’s a noble idea. And I am looking at it with a passion. Because we have mostly ignored our own value. But why is it not easy to implement?

  4. Do you agree that to do direct bookings you must feed someone - thing all the time; either Google (SEO), try a Facebook page, Instagram or you pay to advertise. Today these guys make the free stuff difficult. Why? They want you to rather pay.

  5. What about email? Most hosts neglect their previous guests. But sending out regular emails can work and is free (if you did get the regular email of your guest). Again you must do something all the time.

  6. Do you have to continually feed Airbnb to get bookings? No. You list, tweak and leave it (I am generalising for comparative purposes). Does this confirm your dependency and why Airbnb is resilient?

  7. Is this dependency on Airbnb a good thing? Maybe for some but those who are looking at direct bookings may have to better mining and polishing of their own diamonds.

  8. Do we have two problems? (a) we have to feed and feed and feed our website, or FB, our social media all the time to create awareness. (b) The other is our dependency on Airbnb.

  9. What if we can create a self-feeding loop to allow our past guests and new guests to become our advocates? Instead of paying to advertise, pay costs to get bookings why use the power of our new guests, past guests and other potential guests to become our automated marketers?

  10. Are you familiar with how PayPal, DropBox did it to grow to mega-companies? At the time Elon Musk, boss of Paypal, said advertising is too expensive. They will use the loop idea to get interested parties to sell their service. Airbnb is doing or has done the same; asking you to get others to list in change for a voucher. Why can we not do the same?

This is true if we ignore time. Today many online companies sell excellent off the solve tools to do these viral loops for very affordable monthly fees.

We are tied to the navel with resilient Airbnb. Don’t bite the hand feeding you I have been told. I agree. We don’t need to divorce from Airbnb but this does not mean we should not consider seriously direct bookings.

But direct bookings, to me, is not the solution if you have to feed and feed - as described above. I believe you have to create self-feeding loops Airbnb does, Elon Musk and other small guys are doing today.

This is my new project; to implement these self-feeding loops. One simple example and a case study to TRY and explain:

  1. A guest books.
  2. She gets a thank you email from you.
    You offer her to free vouchers you have negotiated with local tourists and other providers - spas, restaurants, whale-watching, guides etc. She gets these when she subscribes to your list.
  3. You have a big incentive as well, to get this big incentive she gets a unique link to share with her social connections. The more she shares the higher her entries etc. The options are endless. Let’s say she shares your Airbnb listing or your direct booking link the guest is staying at. The message can, for example, says, "Look at this cool pace I will be staying at! You can qualify for a $25 (or whatever) voucher if you join me here [link].
  4. When some of her friends subscribe she gets more entries to the big prize. I am getting into too much details.
  5. It loops. And loops. Rather than me trying to explain it…

Read the case study how Harrys did it

If you are interested to learn more we may want to collaborate. I can create a Facebook group or similar to share ideas. I don’t know.


Johan Horak
In Locked Down Cape Town South Africa


Zero interest here. I spent decades marketing stuff for others, in one way or another. I’m retired now and have zero interest in marketing myself for a part-time one-listing space. That’s the beauty of AirBnb – they do the marketing and money processing for me. Why would I want to re-invent the wheel – I don’t have to deal with the mundane crap, I can enjoy the meeting and greeting guests, making them gourmet breakfasts, and help them explore our unique area. I’m not a mercenary hotelier trying to make a living at this. If I did I’d run a conventional Bed & Breakfast, using conventional B&B marketing.


I’d agree with @KenH on this one. I could build a website for our listing and I could start advertising for direct bookings. Once I did that, I could spend days and days in configuring the website and try to get some SEO advantage. I might even succeed in that and get maybe a small handful direct bookings a year. For what though? To circumvent the fees that I (and the guest) pay to AirBnB? It’s a hell of a lot of work just to make a bit of a saving. And there is no guarantee that this strategy might actually work because my paltry little direct booking business is a speck of dust in comparison to the millions of people who visit AirBnB everyday. So yes, if you have multiple listings and you are tech savvy then maybe it makes sense to aim for direct bookings, but with one listing it’s just not worth the amount of effort involved.


I like using Airbnb. Any payment issues, guests contacts them directly. I only have to worry about making the space great for guests. Many of other issues can be handled by Air bnb as well. I think the small percentage I pay to use the platform is well worth it. It’s hassle free.


Well it is more than the fee’s, it is about control. Direct bookings allow the host to manage their own business without the interference of a 3rd party. If a guest shows up with a dog or a extra guest the host is free to deal with it according to their own policy, not subject to the interpretation of Air’s TOS.

I market to past guests, offer 4th night free, first chance on holidays before the calendar opens up. I am going to figure a way to get them to refer me to their friends, although some do without my help.



Simple referrer code, someone they refer books a minimum of X nights, they get a free night themselves.


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I need to figure out how this works in practice, with my website and channel manager. I am guessing it is built in somewhere I just need to look through the help articles at Ownerrez






Hi Johan,

I’m envious - Cape Town is the top place on my list of places to go to. It was my dad’s favourite city in the world - and he’d been to many.

Anyway, to the subject at hand… there are different types of host who use Airbnb. Some are simply trying the whole thing out, others are doing it to fill a specific but temporary need and so on. Then there are those who are listing illegally without the necessary permits, STR insurance or not paying taxes who are just winging it until they get caught or get too scared.

Then there are those who have been in the hospitality business for many years for whom short term rentals are their primary business. Those people don’t rely on Airbnb, it’s simply the industry leader at the moment so we’d be daft not to use it.

It goes without saying that these hosts market to previous guests (and others) in many various ways, without resorting to vouchers, and entries to prizes. And we’ve been doing it for a long time.

Mostly these hosts have their own website, their social media accounts and their personal networks so can keep their rentals full.

Your idea wouldn’t interest experienced hosts who have been marketing their rentals for a long time but I can see how it could definitely be of interest to newer hosts who don’t have marketing experience though.

Personally, just my opinion, the prizes, vouchers, unique promotional links etc. are a bit tacky for some guests and some places. But not for others, of course.

I do love seeing hosts who actively market their places though - there are too many who seem to have the ‘if you build it, they will come’ attitude, believing that once you’ve built your listing you can sit back and let Airbnb do everything else so I congratulate you for actively promoting your rental.


Thanks! I just was looking and did not find it then, Viola!


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In our neck of the woods I’d have agreed with you, three years ago.

We noticed a shift towards BDC, around fifteen months ago, and this was despite us being competitively on Airbnb with excellent reviews. Our BDC rates are higher, yet we still continue to get significantly more business from them than Airbnb. A couple of other hosts I know are having the same experience.

Maybe it’s a geographical thing, I honestly don’t know,


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I think @jaquo hit the nail on the head. The host that are more-experienced and willing-to-work were already using multiple online travel agencies (, HomeAway/VRBO, TripAdvisor, etc.) as well as doing direct-booking and they already reduced their dependence on Airbnb. The hosts that are least satisfied with Airbnb are the hosts that relied too heavily on Airbnb, and in general, those are either the least-experienced hosts or the hosts that were least-willing to put in extra effort to use multiple platforms (for a variety of reasons).

@Johan_Horak 's idea targets hosts with “a few or many listings” and is “not ideal for people who don’t have time to work hard at marketing”, but the host that are in the most need to reduce their dependence on Airbnb are also the hosts that either aren’t experienced enough or aren’t willing to put in the extra effort to work hard. The whole reason most hosts flocked to Airbnb is because it’s easy. Attempting to attract hosts to a different system that requires a lot of work seems futile because as much as hosts might complain about Airbnb on the internet, very few will be willing to put in a bunch of extra effort to replace Airbnb, especially if Airbnb retains it’s market dominance.

The main piece that I believe is broken in the “Looping Acquisition” model is that the companies @Johan_Horak cites used their own marketing resources to set up the “loops” and didn’t require the platform users to do it for them, thus making it easy for the platform users.

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As the OP stated, this is probably not a worthwhile approach for hosts with one or two listings. In my case, with just a private room/home-share, I can’t charge a rental amount that would make it cost-effective to put in all that extra effort.


If you respond please share how many listings you have.

I should have started with the above as it may have assist many not to waste their time reading irrelevant stuff.

@Brian_R170 thanks for noting the above. The good news about your objection regarding having an inhouse tech to develop the acquisition loop was true then. Today you can buy /off the shelf/ software doing it for you. From about $40 per month. Again not for everyone.

Many objected and sighted diversifying options. This is assuming professional companies like ours have not done it already. :flushed:

This is not about diversifying. This is rather about how to leverage your own assets to exponentially grow your business.

It’s not about continuing to pay third parties for your happiness. Yes. You should. But if you neglect your own internal value then it’s your choice.

And suggesting a simple referral link is a good start. But to be viral 10 must refer 11 or more.

Your rewards are multiple. And should not be tacky. Does the Airbnb program look tacky? They give you a voucher or money or whether, when you refer a host. That’s not tacky.

You are paying your happy saviours 15% to be dependent. Why not use some of that to reward your direct guests who refer other guests?

Many years ago the clever educated people did not want to teach people to read and write. Why? The ordinary oaks happiness depended on a third party. Meaning. The more you get instant happiness the less you question the status quo.

You may have 100s of previous guests who are your advocates. Why are they dormant? Why are you not questioning that flat world tools uoh are using?

I only know that they pay you in your local currency via your host payout method, not with a voucher.

Not any more they don’t! Haven’t seen a referral payment link for months, but yes you’re right it is essentially a cash payment, not a voucher.

That point was perfectly illustrated in March/April, the majority of those who joined up here simply to rant tended to be single platform hosts, a number of whom didn’t take kindly when it was pointed out to them that it was a very naive decision, as whole house rentals, to rely solely on one platform.


@Brian_R170 and @JohnF thanks for clarifying. But I believe not really relevant to the original post :flushed:.




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This is a topic of it’s own. And many others can benefit from it if you post it as a main objective in a new post. :+1:

No it’s not, it’s just another topic amongst thousands.

Anyway, your reply, suggesting that @Brian_R170 and my responses were off topic as they didn’t refer directly to your initial post, was then in itself off topic.

Can’t have it both ways :grinning: