Home-sharing service Airbnb proves promising boon to New Brunswick
Students, alumni and lodging renters are being given the platform to promote their businesses through a successful business venture.
Airbnb, Inc. was founded in 2008 in San Francisco, and serves as a marketplace for tourists and locals to search and find a space to stay for one or more nights, according to their website.
The site allows people from all over the world to come and find a renting space for their destination of choice at an affordable rate.
But it is not only visitors who benefit from the service's popularity — homeowners and lodging renters earn a share as well.
Taslim Patel, an Airbnb host and Rutgers alumna, said she has seen how much the site has helped her business.
“Many of my guests have told me that they prefer Airbnb, because the prices are a lot lower than nearby hotels,” she said. “There are more neighborhood options, and Airbnb tends to provide more amenities than hotels.”
Patel joined the business a year ago. She helps her parents manage their house and listings.
“Airbnb seemed like it would generate excellent supplemental income for my parents,” she said. “Plus, I thought it would be nice to meet people from all over the country and the world.”
Patel is currently a “super host,” meaning she has one of the top New Brunswick listings that offers a place to stay at an affordable rate. She believes that this is one of the reasons for her success.
“My listings are very popular in New Brunswick, and with the help of my parents, I'm able to host for as many days as I get bookings,” she said. “I'm usually fully booked for at least 25 out of 30 calendar days with my listing.”
It took, and continues to take, a lot of hard work to keep a top listing in the New Brunswick area. There is a large amount of work required behind the compensation on Airbnb, she said.
“Hosts are able to list their space for free, and are charged a 3 percent fee for every booking that they receive through Airbnb,” she said. “Guests are charged a flat 10 percent service fee for each booking.”
Despite the hard work that is involved, there are some who view the work as simple.
Sean Madden, a Mason Gross School of the Arts senior and photographer for Airbnb, said he learned about the benefits that his work brings to the company.
“I wouldn't really say ‘my business’ benefits theirs, but my skills definitely contribute to a better visual presentation across the board,” he said. “Having professional (and) high-quality interior photography is always better than shaky iPhone photographs.”
The work may appear effortless but there are guidelines, which photographers must meet before they are sent out for assignments, he said.
“When starting, we're provided ‘style guides’ to know what type of look they want as well,” he said. “It's not like we're thrown into the fire, there's a lot of initial guidance.”
Madden has been a part of the Airbnb photography business since the beginning of the Fall 2015 semester. Miranda Lichtenstein, his photography professor, approached him during the summer about Airbnb’s search for photographers to shoot listings.
“When I got wind of this Airbnb gig, it was perfect timing,” he said. “I pick the listings I want to travel to and shoot and schedule them.”
He shoots about one to three listings a week on average. He said he cannot touch base on what the compensation is like due to legal terms but it is a “great consistent gig” for students.
“I couldn't be happier with the compensation, given the circumstances,” he said. “The main thing is, it all adds up.”
Madden has shot more than 20 listings in New Jersey, including Hoboken, Princeton, Point Pleasant and others. But his New Jersey locality means about 80 percent of his feed is from New York City, he said.
“A lot of these people are just looking to make extra money,” he said. “Some have vacation homes they leave for, while others use their secondary property for income.”
Despite his focus on major locations in New York City and New Jersey, he still has time for New Brunswick, he said. While the city is small in terms of traffic volume, it is an up-and-coming market.
“From what I've heard, New Brunswick is a decent little market of people that come to the city for business that either can't get a hotel or rather choose to stay a more accommodating place for a cheaper price,” he said.
This experience has taught him how to keep his own photography venture and Airbnb’s assignments apart. His goal is to shoot the listings he is assigned to the best of his ability.
If the opportunity to shoot for a major publication presents itself, the work from Airbnb will help, he said.
The company strives to give their customers a unique travel experience. As someone who has used Airbnb on his trips, he thinks they are onto the right idea.
“The whole idea is to bring in this social aspect of meeting new people and feeling like you’re in the comfort of a home, but you’re in any destination of your choosing,” he said. “Obviously, you have to be smart and have some common sense, but the experiences have been top-notch.”