What Hotels Do Right: The Best Industry Tricks To Improve Your Airbnb

Before your potential guests ever hop online and start perusing Airbnb listings, they make a more fundamental travel decision first: Do I book a hotel or an Airbnb? As full-time travelers, we’ve seen time and again how much more Airbnb can offer guests than the typical hotel room. Nine times out of ten, it’s a more personalized experience in a larger, more memorable space that clocks in at a considerably lower price.

And yet, even we book hotel rooms now and again. Despite the cookie-cutter structure and scripted service, there are plenty of things that good hotels have down pat. From the check-in flexibility to the endless toilet paper supply, a quick study of what hotels do right can elevate any Airbnb. If you’re looking to fine-tune your hosting skills, check out these tried and true hotel strategies that are bound to enhance any guest’s stay.

CLEAN

We’ve seen more than a few Airbnbs fall short when it comes to cleanliness. These routine hotel strategies can help transform a space from good enough to five-star spotless.

An Inviting Bed

A pristine bed with fluffed pillows and taut linens is the flagship characteristic of the hotel industry. Emulate this quality and create a welcoming, comfortable, and unmistakably clean bed. This is one of the only items every single guest will use, so that means no stains, no funky smells, and no creaking mattress with back-needling springs. If that top layer is looking a bit dingy, a hotel-worthy, machine washable comforter might cost less than you think. The rest of your space might shine, but if your Airbnb has an off-putting bed, those five-star ratings will continue to pass you by.

bedroom at farm

An Intentionally Stocked Space

From the monogrammed notepad to the unstealable hangers, every object a guest interacts with in a hotel room has been intentionally placed in the space. On that scale, it’s too expensive to have it any other way. But since Airbnbs operate out of people’s homes, they’re especially susceptible to clutter creep. We’ve waded through Christmas decorations and abandoned kitchen appliances looking for a roll of paper towels. Not exactly a hotel sanctioned experience.

We’ve waded through Christmas decorations and abandoned kitchen appliances looking for a roll of paper towels. Not exactly a hotel sanctioned experience.

Take a good look at your Airbnb and see if there’s any random accumulation happening in the closets, drawers, or kitchen cabinets. If so, get picky and eliminate anything detracting from the items you’ve deliberately set out for your guests to enjoy. Our favorite example of this intentional approach comes from an exemplary Airbnb in British Columbia. When we were exploring the space, we opened the door to an immaculate fridge and found just a single item inside: this tiny cow pitcher with fresh cream for our coffee. In our minds, this is the best of both worlds: hotel cleanliness fused with Airbnb hospitality.
a chair with a bookshelf
two red flowers in vase

No Trace of Previous Guests

Hotels do their best to make you forget that another guest stayed in the same room last night and a different guest was there the night before that. Anything someone else has brought into the space gets removed before you enter the room. In fact, if you walked into your hotel room to find a bit of trash sitting on the window sill or opened the mini fridge to discover a half used bottle of BBQ sauce and jar of unidentifiable paste, you’d probably head back down to the lobby and ask for a room change or a refund. But in Airbnbs, we consistently see the tracks other guests have left behind, from old takeout mints in the back of the silverware drawer to the extra razors from the Gillette 3-Pack that won’t make it past airport security. Eliminating any trace of previous travelers makes your current guests feel like the space has been prepared just for them. Plus that routine clean-up goes a long way towards combating the clutter creep mentioned above.

But in Airbnbs, we consistently see the tracks other guests have left behind, from old takeout mints in the back of the silverware drawer to the extra razors from the Gillette 3-Pack that won’t make it past airport security.

A Cleaning Checklist

Even cleaning staffs who whip in and out of hotel rooms by the floor have a checklist. Theirs might be committed to memory, but if you’re just cleaning up your Airbnb once every day or two, it’s likely that in the hustle and bustle of hosting, a few tasks tend to slip through the cracks. The next time you clean up your space, jot down each step. Then give your cleaning checklist a quick once over before you’ve finished preparing for the next guest. If you ever hire another person to help you maintain your Airbnb, this list will be a great tool to pass on.

cleaning solutions

The next time you clean up your space, jot down each step.

A Budget for Long Term Maintenance

Hosting an Airbnb is not a set it and forget it situation. Sure, there are creative ways to systematize the upkeep and minimize the costs, but there will always be routine maintenance and the occasional plumbing emergency that require a bit of extra cash and elbow grease. Hotels know this. They’ve already budgeted for the handyman, the extra lightbulbs, the fresh bedroom pillows, and the occasional worn out piece of furniture. Set your nightly price accordingly and budget for long-term success.
lightbulbs on a red table

Safe

Whether folks are booking a night at a large hotel chain or a ritzy resort, personal safety is rarely given a second thought. Put your guests at ease by adopting these safety tactics into your hosting routine.

Individualized Entry

The reprogrammable keycard is a hotel safety standby that significantly whittles down the number of people who have access to a guest’s room. Whoever was sleeping there last night no longer has a functional key. However, with Airbnbs that bright line can get a bit fuzzy. Lockbox codes are rarely changed, tangible keys can be easily copied at Home Depot, and a keypad with the manufacturer’s default programming of 1-2-3-4-star is not tremendously reassuring. Consider investing in a solution that mirrors the hotel approach of individualized entry. We loved a recent strategy we saw that included this smartcode deadbolt lock which the host easily resets for each guest.

Lockbox codes are rarely changed, tangible keys can be easily copied at Home Depot, and a keypad with the manufacturer’s default programming of 1-2-3-4-star is not tremendously reassuring.

Standard Safety Precautions

When it comes to safety, hotels are regulated out the wazoo. Prepare for the accident-prone guest and invest in the basic safety precautions: a smoke alarm, a carbon monoxide monitor, a fire extinguisher, and a high quality (and properly stocked) first aid kit. Scan your space for tripping hazards to help guests avoid falls and secure heavy, upright furniture to the walls with safety hooks to eliminate the possibility of a bookshelf and tv stand toppling over on a toddler. Finally, if there’s anything blatantly hazardous about your space, include it in your description and in your pictures. We arrived at an Airbnb once to find a full-story flight of stairs completely open and rail-less on one side leading to the top floor. Not a deal breaker for us, but absolutely a problem for a family with rambunctious three-year olds. Be transparent and keep your guests safe.

We arrived at an Airbnb once to find a full-story flight of stairs completely open and rail-less on one side leading to the top floor.

Emergency Information That’s Easy to Find

Hotels leave important information in obvious places. Emergency fire information goes on the back of the door and important numbers go by the phone or on speed dial. Make sure your guests have the same easy access to these fundamental details, whether you put it on the fridge, the back of the front door, or the first page in your house manual. Where are the exits? Where’s the fire extinguisher? What is the number for emergency help in your country? Remember too that some of your guests will be far from home and potentially unaccustomed to what even constitutes an emergency where you live or how to react. After years of school drills in Kansas, we could tell you in our sleep what to do in a tornado, but if an earthquake started to shake the ground, we’d be at a loss.

old fashioned globe

Predictable

Given the hotel industry’s rather standardized form, the expectations with which guests arrive tend to be more or less in line with what the hotel truly has to offer. Sidestep disappointed guests by honing the accuracy of your Airbnb listing so that each guest who walks through your door finds everything they thought they would.

An Unsurprising Floor Plan

The variability of hotel floor plans is typically pretty narrow, but Airbnbs come in all shapes and sizes, from glamping campers to four-story windmills. The better potential guests understand your space, the better decision they can make about whether or not your Airbnb is the right fit for them. A detailed online posting makes all the difference. Photos provide the perfect opportunity to walk people through your space. Give interested folks an intuitive feel for the layout by ordering your photos sequentially. Be sure to include photos of all the major furniture too. Certain folks are looking for certain things. Since we both work remotely, we always keep an eye out for a solid table and a comfy chair or couch for early morning (Erin) and late-night (Jay) productivity.

wooden parking sign with Airbnb on it

Straightforward Parking

Whether you’re spending the night in a big city or just off the interstate, hotel parking is almost always a predictable breeze. Ease anxieties for guests by letting them know the situation up front. If you don’t have a designated parking spot for guests, let them know how easy or congested street parking tends to be your neighborhood. If you do offer parking, include the details in your description and a picture of the spot in your photo lineup. We adored the handmade sign above which marked our parking spot of a fabulous farm stay Airbnb in upstate New York. It immediately let us know we had found the right spot. The family had also installed outdoor motion sensor lights to illuminate the parking area, which not only made us feel more safe but was appreciated when we took our pup Odin out each night.

Along with a comfortable bed and hot water, hotel guests also assume that they’ll be sandwiched between other travelers in rooms above, below, and next door to theirs. But with an Airbnb, privacy can be difficult to predict.

Predictable Privacy

Along with a comfortable bed and hot water, hotel guests also assume that they’ll be sandwiched between other travelers in rooms above, below, and next door to theirs. But with an Airbnb, privacy can be difficult to predict, especially when it comes to those listings categorized as Entire Place. Use your description to explain to potential guests how much privacy they can realistically expect. If there are adjoining suites, other Airbnbs on the property, or particularly thin walls, let folks know. Also, ensure that once guests are in the space, they can close the blinds for complete privacy, especially in the bathroom and bedroom. This is a hotel given and yet has been surprisingly absent from a handful of Airbnbs. Our favorite window coverings were these cordless blinds that could be raised or lowered in any direction.

colorful painting next to a bright window

Pleasing Decor

Of course there are plenty of mediocre places that feel rather outdated, but most hotels make an effort to create a welcoming, fresh environment with their decor. They’ve usually got the standard floor length curtains, a mirror of some sort to open up the space, and a few pieces of mass produced art above the bed and dresser. The interiors in Airbnbs are almost always more inventive and homey. Some feel downright magazine worthy. But if you’re a host who never got bit by the HGTV bug, a quick look at some inviting hotel rooms online will help you scoop up the basics in no time.

If you’re a host who never got bit by the HGTV bug, a quick look at some inviting hotel rooms online will help you scoop up the basics in no time.

Endless Toilet Paper

In our experience, Airbnbs have blown hotels in our price range out of the water when it comes to luxurious amenities: fancy soaps, chocolate bars, rich espresso, hand lotion from the spa. But ironically, we often run out of the basics: toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo, hand soap by the sinks. This is a place where hotels rarely falter. There may not be much in the room, but whatever’s included in the nightly rate is fully stocked for the entire stay. Add an item to your cleaning checklist to ensure that all the amenities you provide your guests are fully stocked, especially if they’ll be staying for a full week or month.
toilet paper

Hospitality

While Airbnb hosts tend to zip past the hotel chains when it comes to genuine customer service, these hotel standards make great building blocks to ensure your hospitality bases are covered.

100% Self Check-In

We’re such fans of self check-in, we’ve written an entire post about the advantageous, so we’ll be brief here. But in the context of hotel practices, providing 24-hour check in is about prioritizing the guest’s schedule, whatever it might be or however many times it might change. Guests heading to a hotel never spend the day worrying about holding up the check-in staff after an unforeseen flight delay or traffic jam. Self check-in at an Airbnb brings about the same relaxed, peace of mind on travel days.

Door with holiday wreath

Always Available, Never Intrusive Communication

At a hotel, there’s always someone nearby ready to assist with anything a guest might need, but the communication is never intrusive. Good hosts have mastered this same balance of availability and space. Their professional troubleshooting mode kicks in the moment an entry code doesn’t work or the drains back up. They touch base every now and then to see if there’s anything their guests need. But they’re never pushy conversationalists. Each guest will want a different level of connection. Beyond the communication underpinning your great hospitality, follow the guest’s lead when it comes to conversation.

Good hosts have mastered this same balance of availability and space in their communication.

Complimentary Coffee and Tea

Whether it’s out in the lobby or tucked in each guest’s room, hotels usually offer complimentary coffee and tea. As caffeine junkies, we’ve been so grateful to all the hosts who have left us the fixings for our morning jolt. We’ve also seen a few hosts go the extra mile and take inspiration from the hotel’s continental breakfast, leaving just enough in the kitchen for a light breakfast that first morning. We’ve been greeted with old fashioned donuts, a basket of fruit and granola bars, and a tupperware of fresh eggs from the host’s own coup.

coffee cup and personal calendar

Hotels know that their patrons are appreciated guests to welcome, not untrustworthy tenants to supervise.

A Welcome Guest, Not an Untrustworthy Tenant

Last but not least, hotels know that their patrons are appreciated guests to welcome, not untrustworthy tenants to supervise. We’ve stayed in just a place or two where this mindset was off, and it hampered the mood of our entire stay. The easiest way to truly put guests at ease is to demonstrate that you’re happy they’re there and that you trust them with your space. A simple gesture welcoming them to your home goes a long way. We’ve arrived to find a little vase of fresh cut flowers or a short handwritten note on the coffee table. From there, all you have to do is give guests the space to enjoy their time in the Airbnb you’ve so carefully created.

two tiny vases of flowers in front of an open window

Happy Hosting!

Thanks so much for reading this post! We’d love to hear from you. What are your hotel style hosting tricks? Which strategies have been game-changers for you? Tell us in the comments below. And as always, happy hosting!

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