After less than one year, Airbnb’s affiliate program, called Airbnb Associates, is closing its doors on March 31, 2021. The news came as a surprise to many travel bloggers, as the program had been launched in the middle of the pandemic (May 2020) and seemed to work well. The reason may be that Airbnb’s diverting its money, attention, and product development to other projects, such as the Made Possible By Hosts ad campaign, as well as an effort to get more supply, with the ramping up on the Airbnb Ambassadors program. Technically, the program’s tools for affiliates were superb and we’ll revisit them in this article.
An affiliate program launched at the lowest point of the COVID-19 pandemic
In May 2020, the launch of Airbnb’s associate program was interesting, as the company had always seemed reluctant to embrace affiliate marketing. While Expedia and Booking.com were busy developing a large network of affiliates, Airbnb seemed uneasy with the idea of someone else pitching and maybe diluting their brand.
While Airbnb was cutting all marketing expenses in May 2020, it launched its Associates Program. It was often a rare silver lining in a dark world to travel bloggers, as competing affiliate programs based on commission on flights, hotels, and attractions had stopped generating money. Meanwhile, Airbnb enjoyed a boom, with short-term rentals seen as a great lodging option in a socially-distanced summer 2020. It also helped Airbnb keep its brand visible, which helped in the wake of its IPO.
Why did Airbnb stop its Associates program?
An affiliate program is a performance marketing that is normally built to make money: The brand pays a commission only when a sale has been made. For instance, associates were getting 30% of the Airbnb service fee as a commission. So, why stop it?
Travel bloggers who have talked with Airbnb report that the program was working well financially, but that Airbnb now has another focus: Getting more supply. Travel revenge, i.e. the pent-up demand for travel by consumers freed up from travel restrictions, should be creating demand on its own. If everybody starts traveling at the same time and wants a cabin somewhere nice, then the issue for short-term rental operators to have enough supply.
Airbnb’s upcoming “Made possible by hosting” campaign and the ramping up of the Ambassadors program show that Airbnb wants its ecosystem of small entrepreneurs to focus on getting supply (new hosts) and not demand (reservations by existing and new guests).
The Associates program’s goal was to generate demand. Yet, in 2021, Airbnb is counting on its massive “Made possible by hosts” advertising campaign. According to Skift, Airbnb spent close to $9 million on TV commercials during the first week of the advertising blitz in the US alone.
For online bloggers who have now a few weeks to find a new affiliate program and to change all their links, it is not a happy time. It does show that big companies like Airbnb can take decision fast and may sometimes bruise smaller actors (e.g. hosts in March 2020, associates in March 2021). Airbnb Ambassadors may also want to hedge their bets.
Making money on Airbnb when you’re not getting bookings
Airbnb has several ways for property managers marketers to make additional revenue, including options for hosts looking to add additional revenue streams aside from short-term rental bookings. However, navigating the various referral programs can be difficult. This article will go over the difference between the Host Referral program, the Airbnb Ambassador program, and the Airbnb Associate program which launched earlier this year in May.
For instance, we’ll show how you can create a link to get visitors to find and book properties in a specific destination (say, St Barths). You will also see that Airbnb Associates can create widget such as below;
The Airbnb Associate Program, the new affiliate program
The Airbnb Associate Program is a referral program that allows people to make money by sharing travel content. The great thing about this is that you don’t have to be a traditional influencer with a large audience to take part; everyone is eligible to participate, including hosts.
A new and improved version of Airbnb’s affiliate program
You may be familiar with the Host Referral program, where you only earned money when you refer new host to Airbnb. In 2017, Airbnb launched an Affiliate Program that was giving money to people referring new guests to the platform. The common goal of these two programs was to grow Airbnb’s user base, on each side of the Airbnb Community.
Under the Airbnb Associate program, you will earn 30% of the Airbnb service fee as cash for every trip booked through your referral link, including if someone clicks on your link and books a stay up to 28 days later. Note that it is not 30% of the Airbnb booking value, but 30% of the Airbnb service fee.
How may a program manager earn money from Airbnb’s Associate Program?
As a property manager, it is a great way to add a revenue stream that can continue to bring in money even if all your properties are booked up.
For example, one approach can be to create a list of other Airbnb properties that you would recommend to people that you send to potential guests when your properties are full. This approach increases guest engagement and satisfaction to build potential future business while also bringing in some earnings on bookings that you cannot capture.
How do you become an Airbnb associate?
To register, you just need an Airbnb account. The platform is easy to use and is integrated within your account. After logging in, you can go to the associates landing page and follow the steps to sign up.
How do you create Airbnb associate affiliate links and widgets?
The program allows you to create text links, widgets, or landing pages. You can check out this page test created by our Rental Scale-Up team. We created this well-designed webpage presenting properties that we have saved earlier on Airbnb. You can choose to add a map to the page, as we’ve done here.
You can also use text links to send people to a specific property or location. Finally, you can also integrate widgets into your own website that allow your site visitors to search Airbnb directly. You would earn a commission for any booking found through that widget, even if you haven’t written about it!
The Airbnb Associates program also comes with a user-friendly dashboard that tracks your commission and gives you analytics on your performance. Finally, payouts happen on the 20th of every month and can be redeemed through Paypal, Bank Transfer, or Payoneer.
Other Referral Programs: Host-to-Host and Ambassadors
Airbnb also has its well-known Host-to-Host referral program explicitly designed to encourage hosts to refer other hosts. As a host, you can earn a bonus for anyone who signs up as a new host using your referral link. The payout varies from city to city, from $75-$600, and only happens once a booking actually takes place at the new host’s property. Referring new hosts is easy; all you have to do is click ‘Refer a Host’ under your profile options menu and copy the link to send to your friends.
Finally, Airbnb has an Ambassador program, which is similar to the Host-to-Host program, in the sense that the goal is to increase Airbnb’s supply of properties. The big difference is that it is open to all verified Airbnb users, guests included.
Associates vs Host Referrals vs Ambassadors
Airbnb offers a range of ways for property managers and owners to earn money aside from direct vacation rental bookings. It is crucial to evaluate the different options and decide which avenues for earning revenue are most important to building your business.
However, through these additional affiliate programs, Airbnb has made it clear that they are here to be the partners of short-term rental owners and property managers to build their business. Affiliate marketing through the associate program is a great way to create an additional passive revenue stream even without a huge follower base or regular content creation.