Hospitality is an important part of the Filipino identity. Giving and sharing is so deeply mixed in our blood, we even have a word for it: kagiliwan. Filipinos receive complete strangers into their homes with warm smiles and warmer food. Hospitality is a concept that has always stayed with the Filipino, through the years and across borders; our country may develop or progress, but that spirit of hospitality will remain rooted in our souls.
It is no surprise that Airbnb has taken hold of this country in a big way. As a maverick disruptor in the hospitality industry, Airbnb has demonstrated that anyone can host a 5-star hotel experience, as long as you have the space, a good eye for decor, a love for thinking out-of-the-box, and a penchant for providing comfort to those who require it.
We touched base with Ar. Randy Carizo, a Filipino architect based in Hongkong. An architect, a painter, and an interior designer, Ar. Randy is a modern-day renaissance man who employs his talents in redesigning living spaces for Airbnb use.
With his guidance, we compiled a list of tips for the up-and coming Airbnb host who wants to ensure a steady stream of bookings and a comfortable and memorable stay for their guests.
1. BE UNIQUE BUT UNIVERSAL
Sincerity is a big draw for a lot of people. One of the strengths of Airbnb over traditional hoteliers is that Airbnb spaces are a lot homier and cozier. They have personality and history. Add some of yourself in the decoration. “Add a touch of novelty and invest in a few items that are extraordinary,” Ar. Randy suggests. A host has a myriad of options to choose from: think pieces that draw the eye, a brick wall covered with appealing graffiti, provocative furniture, etc. Ar. Randy himself opted to lean into his artistic side when decorating one of his units. “I decided to use not only my artworks but some of my kids’ paintings as well.”
However, remember that your space needs to appeal to most people. Depending on where your Airbnb is, your guests will run the gamut from local couples on a weekend getaway, to expatriates on an extended stay, to 50-somethings celebrating their college reunion. These are different people from wildly varying walks of life, with different proclivities and habits. Your space needs to draw in the masses and be memorable enough to stand out. Repeat customers are an invaluable benefit to an up-and-coming hospitality provider.
2. SCOPE OUT THE COMPETITION
Ar. Randy and his team faced the same challenge in one of their Airbnb units. While an Airbnb can be a lucrative endeavor, it is still subject to the same market forces as any business. Saturation and traffic are issues one needs to consider before flipping one’s home. So what’s a guy to do? Ar. Randy actually booked a room in the same apartment complex. This gave his team and him valuable intel with regards to the price range, room ambiance, and fixture quality of his nearby competitors. “We were dissatisfied and, in the end, we were convinced we could improve the overall experience,” Ar. Randy shared.
So try going online to see if nearby Airbnb hosts are thriving in the neighborhood. Do some recon and gauge whether you have the means to compete. If you can match up to the competition, then get to work and go for it. “
“Add a touch of novelty and invest in a few items that are extraordinary,” Ar. Randy suggests.
3. BALANCE INVESTMENT AND RESOURCEFULNESS
Much like any venture, an Airbnb unit requires some capital to get started. Every good Airbnb host customizes their space to draw in more patrons, but customization can drive up costs quite a bit. “It is a problem. That is where creativity and resourcefulness come in handy,” Ar. Randy advises against major overhauls, since those require time and effort you can allocate to more important issues.
His solution: resourcefulness. “Applying simple but durable finishes is the key,” he recommends. If you can do things yourself, like painting the walls, do it. You can save on labor costs while maintaining a consistent design theme. This level of hands-on involvement also allows the Airbnb host an avenue to understand the business even more. But painting and decorating an entire apartment can be daunting, and if it becomes too burdensome to do alone, Ar. Randy advises getting help from friends and family whenever possible. Maybe you can even pay them back with a proprietary stay in your finished and furnished Airbnb.
4. DECORATE FOR STYLE AND SUBSTANCE
“Make sure the unit is easily ‘Instagrammable’ but don’t overdecorate,” Ar. Randy proposes. Word-of-mouth is an excellent marketing tool, and Instagram with its satellite field of influencers and followers are at your service. In an age where the ‘new’ is celebrated and the ‘interesting’ is worshipped, this may be a difficult line to tow. Ar. Randy allowed his team free run to choose almost every item in one of their Airbnb units.
Choosing decor became a product of consensus, and this aggregate helped solidify the feel and balance of the room. “Make sure fixtures and appliances are functional,” Ar. Randy continues. It might sound like a given, but guests’ main complaints are rarely about the decor. Flickering lights, drippy faucets, and busted outlets steal the fun out of an Airbnb stay and ruin that 5-star ambiance. No complaints are good, because that means everything in your unit is running smoothly.
5. GET INTO THE KITCHEN
Let’s say you’ve already bedecked your bedroom and living areas for comfort and aesthetics. The bathroom’s all done up, polished till the tiles show your reflection. Ventilation, check. Power and water outlets, check. Though you may feel you have everything you need for that 5-star hotel experience, Ar. Randy cautions us to pay attention to the one room Airbnb hosts tend to overlook: the kitchen. “It’s a small space that requires the most attention to details,” Ar. Randy warns. While not everyone cooks, those who do appreciate a kitchen that is smartly laid out.
The kitchen has to cater to different lifestyles: young couples jonesing for midnight snacks, families prepping holiday meals, bachelors whipping up something fast and hearty. However, the kitchen should not be crowded and heavily designed. “Short term-guests should be able to navigate the space effortlessly,” Ar. Randy says.
6. AVOID DEALBREAKERS
No matter how nice you think your space is right now, it’s always a good idea to comb through the unit for possible dealbreakers. A dealbreaker is one thing–one seemingly small detail–that can be annoying, inconvenient, and tragically memorable for your guests.
One is tacky decorations. Do you have a photorealistic cat face on your toilet seat cover? Nope. Sandwich-themed wallpaper? Consider replacements. Tackiness is subjective, but tacky decor is easy to spot since it sticks out from the overall look of a room. Take care not to offend people, so steer clear of provocative posters or decorations.
Another are stiff beds and dirty linens. Test the beds yourself and make sure to replace all your linens after every guest. If people can’t sleep, they won’t be able to enjoy their stay.
Lastly, lighting. “You want to give your guests the option to dim the lights when they want to,” Ar. Randy offers. Of course, your guests should still have the option to brighten the room. Ar. Randy recommends avoiding dark-colored walls and providing good overall lighting.
Hospitality is a feeling. It’s in the friendly reception of a host; the casual yet sincere generosity offered to friends and strangers. However, Ar. Randy Carizo understands that hospitality can also be an experience. It is an experience that has evolved to suit the needs of the modern man. It’s an experience found in the coziness of a clean and perfumed duvet. In the convenience of a fully-equipped kitchen. In the story of a meticulously picked In the gentle glow of a living room lamp shining on your guests as they while the night away. D+C
WORDS: John Ravino Duanan
IMAGES: Ar. Randy Carizo