517 Magazine Presents: The 26th Annual Greater Lansing Entrepreneurial Awards

Lansing AirBnB Hosts Respond to Current Needs

Arron Applebey checks in with Airbnb for a look at how hosts are dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.

Tiny remote cabins, cozy cottages overlooking moonlit lakes and local midsize houses designed for the ultimate guest experience — Michigan Airbnbs are as unique as they are intimate. Given the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Airbnb hosts found themselves needing to pivot to bring wary would-be guests back safely and to recover from significant financial loss.

The good news is that, in spite of reports of overall declines in general travel reservations, Airbnb representatives recently said, “Between May 17 and June 6, 2020, there were more nights booked for travel to Airbnb listings in the U.S. than during the same time period in 2019.” Northern Michigan has seen especially strong growth.

Lansing-based Airbnb superhosts Chris and Kendall Rhett said they only had a 10% decline in bookings for their property during the initial months of the pandemic. Lansing is a destination that, according to Chris Rhett, usually draws in three types of traveler: the businessperson, the “staycationer” and event goers — whether it’s for a Lugnuts game or a conference at Michigan State University. When some of those travelers canceled due to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order, the Rhetts realized there was an opportunity in providing housing to frontline health care workers.

In addition to sanitizing every surface, the couple placed hand sanitizer and wipes on the front table for guests. Beyond sanitation, the Rhetts switched the verbiage on their house description, focusing on attracting health care workers and on their amenities.

“I really appreciate working with Airbnb,” said Chris Rhett. “They’re a great company … and they really try to take care of both the guests and hosts in my experience.”

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