What do you Airbnb guests really care about during their stay in Sydney?

Key Points

  • Airbnb guests tend to evaluate their experience based on a frame of reference derived from past hotel stays.
  • To be a great host, besides the must-haves (e.g. cleanliness), you need to be flexible, have clear instruction, set realistic expectation, and have good communication with your guests, but also do give small surprise to your Airbnb guests.

What do you Airbnb guests really care about during their stay in Sydney?
Sydney has witnessed a rapid growth of Airbnb listings in the last few years. By the end of 2016, Sydney was ranked the fourth most popular destination for Airbnb in the world, with 23,615 listings. It was estimated that there are at least 181,263 guests using Airbnb in Sydney. So what do these guest care about when staying at these Airbnb listings?

My colleague – Dr Xin Jin from Griffith University and I (School of Marketing, Curtin University) have conducted sentiment analysis (i.e. to see whether the guests are happy or unhappy) and text-mining (i.e. to identify the key attributes) of 170,124 Airbnb guests’ English language review comments, as review comments mirror “the way consumers describe, relive, reconstruct, and share their experience” (Xiang et al., 2015, p. 44), which are considered important to guests. 

Our research suggests that Airbnb guests are overwhelmingly positive about their stay in Sydney. “Location” and “amenities” are the two areas that the guests cared most. This is no surprising, as Airbnb guests tend to use the criteria of traditional hotels to evaluate their Airbnb experience. Importantly, Sydney general city environment (e.g., transport, restaurants, city, shops, cafes, garden, station, and airport) enjoy highly positive scores and very low negative scores, indicating that city’s general environment could play a role in forming Airbnb user’s positive experience.

Host was ranked as third. Our research did not reveal that seeking authentic guest-host encounter was highly ranked. This is not surprising considering 23,615 listings at the end 2016 in Sydney with 61.9% of entire home/apartment. Within the host category, guests are mainly concerned with hosts’ helpfulness, flexibility, and communication of the hosts and the animals that Airbnb hosts have.

Thus, to be a great host, besides the must-haves (e.g. cleanliness), our research offers other seven tips that could help create a more enjoyable and happy Airbnb experience (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Tips


1: Set up realistic expectations. Some issues, such as Wifi, are easy to fix, while some are not. For example, our research shows that guests are negative about “noise”. For this, setting realistic expectations to explicitly highlight that there is noise occurring is important, so that guests are aware of this.

2: Provide clear instructions. Most often than not, Airbnb hosts can not be available 24 hours to answer enquiries and solve unexpected problems. Thus, Airbnb hosts need to provide a clear instruction on how to solve these problems, as our study shows that Airbnb guests are happy to read these instructions.


3: Do communicate. Airbnb services are lack of standard and this is becoming increasingly normalized in guest’s minds. Airbnb experience can be full of surprises. Besides, being accurate, do communicate throughout different stages (pre, onsite, and post), for different purposes (check-in/ out, facilities, help), and via different modes (online, face-to-face). It is important for the host to clearly highlight ways of communication, when to communicate, and who to talk to when there is an emergency. In particular, communications about check in and outs are important for guests in order to allay any confusion as very likely guests can be late or arrive early.

4: Provide sense of privacy and safety. Airbnb guests highly value privacy and safety of stay, as these are commonly guaranteed in hotels. So do provide them space that privacy and safety can be ensured.

5: Small surprise: Many of the small things in hotels are usually not expected in the Airbnb context; however, provision of some of these, such as drinks can be interpreted by Airbnb guests as a delight.

6:  Be flexible. Being flexible with check in and check out was highly appreciated by hosts. However, to ‘how frequent’ and ‘to what degree’ can ‘flexible arrangements’ be catered for others remains a hard line but do set up realistic expectation.

7: Friendly pets: In most hotels, guests are seldom to meet animals during their stay; however, in the Airbnb context, these is not uncommon and animals do play its bit, as guests generally comment on the friendliness of animals which reflects on a host’s hospitality but unfriendly animals can also negatively influence the overall experience of the guest.

More information, please contact me: mingming.cheng@curtin.edu.au or see our article below:

Cheng, M., & Jin, X. (2019). What do Airbnb users care about? An analysis of online review comments. International Journal of Hospitality Management76, 58-70.