Beyond disruption: The rise of Airbnb’s sidekick start-ups

Larissa Ham

It’s no secret that Airbnb is booming, with 70,000 listings in Australia alone – double that of last year.

But while its founders are laughing all the way to the bank, Airbnb’s success is also paying dividends for the many businesses that have sprung up around it.

Just ask Linton Wood, whose Melbourne rental management business is so busy that he’s forced to turn away up to 15 new inquiries from hosts each week.

His venture, Beyond A Room, handles guest inquiries, cleaning, check-ins and other logistics for property owners who are either travelling themselves or don’t want to be involved day-to-day.

In January last year, Wood had 25 Airbnb listings on his books. Eighteen months later, that’s tripled to around 75.

“It just kept doubling every six months,” says Wood, 28. “We sort of got to a point where we decided we needed to re-evaluate this growth strategy.”

With Airbnb well and truly entering the mainstream, Wood says it’s provided a growing opportunity for businesses like his to fill the gap – for example how to get clean sheets on the bed when you’re in, say, Tanzania.

“A common story we hear is my mum is away, I’ve run out of favours with my neighbours.”

Wood, an architect by trade, had the idea after working as a photographer for Airbnb in France and Melbourne.

His business now has 24 people employed in various capacities – including cleaners, a software developer, administration staff and a logistics manager.

“It grows by 50 per cent a year,” says the 29-year-old, who has never advertised and doesn’t have a website."

Beyond A Room charges a management fee of 15 to 18 per cent, plus cleaning fees.

Wood’s business is just one of many servicing the Australian Airbnb market, with property management services Hey Tom and The Concierge, and host coaching business Guest Ready among countless others.

Carmen Monteath, an Airbnb host who runs Clean Air Management, started her business three years ago and has had to cap client numbers because of the enormous demand for her services.

“It grows by 50 per cent a year,” says the 29-year-old, who has never advertised and doesn’t have a website. She has 56 listings on her books, and three cleaners in tow.

Monteath fell into the business while managing a bar in inner-city Melbourne. Airbnb hosts that lived in the nearby apartment blocks started asking her to mind their keys – then to clean and manage their apartments while they were away.

With a rush of work has come an unexpected downside.

“I originally got into business thinking it will be a flexible thing, I’ll be able to travel,” says Monteath. “But I actually work seven days a week and don’t get to go anywhere.”

Of course, with ever-increasing popularity comes the risk of market saturation.

But Linton Wood says at this stage, there’s still plenty of growth potential for the global accommodation site.

“I think the only thing that’s really holding it back is some firm legislation saying ‘we understand it’s here to stay and here’s how we are going to regulate it’.”

Larissa Ham

Larissa Ham is a Melbourne-based freelancer. She write for publications including The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, The New Daily and Forge magazine.

Image: Carlos Pacheco, Flickr Creative Commons License

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