Students in Trudy Perry’s Airbnb Experience, Design a Hand-Woven Wall Hanging, show off their completed projects.
Photo courtesy of Trudy Perry.
Airbnb Experiences are one-of-a-kind activities, hosted by locals, in which people pay to participate. For example, you can create a wool scarf on a loom in Patagonia, make beautiful soy wax candles on the Isle of Wight, learn the art of lithographs in Stuttgart, explore Japanese tableware design in Nagoya, paint in plein air on a secret beach in Antibes, or do more than 30,000 other things all over the world. Airbnb Experiences are also ways enterprising entrepreneurs, makers, crafters, artists, and chefs are making additional income and promoting their workshops, skills, and talents, and making names for themselves.
Benefits of Hosting an Airbnb Experience
The benefits of adding an Airbnb Experience to your offerings’ arsenal are numerous. Fiber artist Trudy Perry offers a Design a Hand-Woven Wall Hanging at her Topanga Canyon, California-based Fire Horse Studio; she explained, “I decided to offer my Experience with Airbnb last year.”
“At first it was for extra money; however, it allowed me to share my passion and take a leap to pursue it full-time. The benefits have been two-fold: financial and social.”
Perry loves the extra money she makes and meeting people from all over, many of whom come to her workshop as part of their celebrations.
Similarly, travelers and locals alike seek out Janeane Bowlware’s ring making class in Chicago. For the past year and half the Chicago-based metal artist and jeweler has offered the Make a Silver Ring with a Silversmith three-hour workshop that teaches the basics of texturing metal, using mandrels and hammers, soldering, and decorative finishing.
She explains that while teaching a BYOB-style metalsmith workshop at her studio, one of her clients mentioned that she should check out the new thing Airbnb was doing. “I love teaching and was interested in hosting more classes so I decided to list my class with Airbnb. They only take a cut if a person books your experience so I figured ‘why not?’” (The cut Airbnb takes is a 20 percent service fee.) Bowlware loves that many couples come to her class to make bands for their anniversaries or their weddings. She enjoys hearing their stories, plus some people who take the workshop have contacted her later to commission custom work.
Australian husband and wife team Derrian and Tom Kadmon decided to offer the Painted Mandala Stones through Airbnb after offering workshops and public lectures for 17 years. They are trained artists and therapists who run Interfaith Conflict Resolution in Horsley, New South Wales. The Kadmons compared the money and time it would take to design and print flyers and then take them around to businesses by hand, and realized that Airbnb marketing had a reach they couldn’t achieve on their own. They were already offering an Airbnb accommodation so “it dovetailed perfectly,” Derrian said. Perry said that her favorite part of offering the experience is when private groups book it. She recently hosted a birthday party for 10 women. “We had so much fun weaving, and there was some wine involved,” she said.
“Overall, it is a great way to share what you do in a fun environment and you don’t have to leave the house!”
A student creating work in Janeane Bowlware’s ring making class in Chicago during an Airbnb Experience.
Photo courtesy of Janeane Bowlware.
Many of the makers and craftspeople who run Airbnb Experiences pair the activity with food or wine for a complete and festive few hours. Graphic designer Rick Schank, artist George Kyle, and retired French professor Daniel Brondi went to an Airbnb Experience in June in Paris. Artist-host Sylvaine Phillipe explained the history of French chanteuse and French food with a cabaret performance and accompanying meal in his flat.
Kyle said part of the beauty of the experience was being with people from all over the world (financiers from Singapore, an artist from Austria, a photographer from right there in Paris, and others) and getting to know them. Schank explained that the Airbnb Experience host said he had invited the Paris photographer, who is also an Airbnb Experience host, to the show so they could learn about each other’s offering and cross promote their events.
Drawbacks to Creating Airbnb Experiences
Bowlware said that her Airbnb Experience has been so popular that she teaches it “about three nights a week,” which can be a drawback when it cuts into time for her own work. If your experience is super popular, you may find yourself teaching more often than you had planned and not have as much time to develop your products. She also said that because she has so many students, she has to replace tools more often than if she were in her studio working on her own.
Another drawback is planning so far into the future. Bowlware said that Airbnb encourages Experience hosts to put their workshop availability on the site six months in advance. But she’s found it challenging to schedule her own life that far out. “I’ve had to find the right balance of scheduling classes for people to book in advance and working around my own life four to five months out.”
Another drawback can be low enrollment. “In the beginning there would be times when I had only one or two people book the Experience,” Bowlware said. “It wasn’t really worth my time to prepare a three-hour class just for these people. But the way the platform works, you still have to hold your class. So that would be kind of a bummer from a profit standpoint.” But she added it did give her the chance to work with “really cool” people in a “one-on-one setting.”
More students in Janeane Bowlware’s ring making class.
Photo courtesy of Janeane Bowlware.
Bowlware offers this advice to others who may be thinking of offering an Airbnb Experience: “If you like to teach, connect with people, and share your art, this can be a really great way of doing so. It’s hard to say if your experience will be ‘popular’…but there’s no harm in trying.” She warns that it isn’t passive income since a lot of work and preparation are involved, and that you need to charge what you’re worth.
And if you decide to offer an Airbnb Experience, consider doing what Sylvaine Phillipe did for his cabaret show, and invite other Experience and accommodation hosts in your area so you can help cross promote each other’s offerings.
Jill L. Ferguson
Jill is the author of seven books, an artist, editor, entrepreneur and consultant. She is the founder of Women's Wellness Weekends (www.womenswellnessweekends.