Sport is big business and the number of visitors it draws to a destination is one aspect of it. Long before Airbnb, hotels have been tapping into this niche market to grow occupancy, rates, and revenue. As the effects of the pandemic slowly but surely fade away, sports tourism is growing again, and fast. In fact, it is expected to grow by nearly $1.4 billion by 2024.
Top Tips to Market your Airbnb Vacation Rental to Sports Tourists
Whilst sports tourists have long been targeted by hotels and other traditional accommodation providers, Airbnb has increasingly recognized the value of this niche market. In fact, sports was a key driver of guests to Airbnbs from its earliest days. For example, in 2010, when Airbnb had just begun to grow worldwide, hosts in South Africa welcomed nearly 500 guest arrivals, earning over $100,000.
With 5.6 million listings across the globe and having accounted for over 1 million total guest arrivals, Airbnb is better equipped than ever to cater to sports tourists of all types. In recognition of this, Airbnb signed a nine-year agreement with the International Olympic Committee, its very first major global sponsorship deal, to sponsor five Olympic games until 2028. The five cities – Tokyo, Beijing, Paris, Milan, and Los Angeles – are among Airbnb’s biggest markets.
Sports tourism is the act of traveling from one locality to another (across town, city, county, state, and national borders) for the purpose of engaging in sports in some means or the other. There are four main types of sports tourism:
These are the players, coaches, nutritionists, etc who arrive at a destination to participate in a sporting event. These can range in size and hype from the NBA and the Super Bowl to regional sporting events for high schoolers. The size of the event and the sport itself will determine the number of people looking for accommodation. For example, a major football tournament will see 11 players, reserve players, and a retinue of additional person per team requiring lodging.
Passive sports tourists comprise the fans who travel from their homes to go watch sporting events like the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics. The passive sports tourism market depends on the value of the sporting event itself with huge events like the Olympics generating enormous earnings across listings in and around the event location. For example, Airbnb hosts welcomed nearly 300,000 guest arrivals from over 150 countries at listings across Russia when it hosted the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Ten percent of guests were families while 17% consisted of groups of five or more. Meanwhile, the 2014 and 2018 World Cups saw an estimated $79 million generated in total earnings by hosts across the event dates.
However, some sporting events can bring in fans that may also cause more trouble than they are worth. Football fans in particular have a reputation for being drunk and rowdy and while they usually take out their aggression on the streets, there always exists the possibility that a few of them may damage your property or belongings.(Damage Deposits)
These are sports tourists who actively participate in sports at their destination. For many participatory tourists, the presence of the sports activity is the main reason to travel to the destination. However, for others, it may only be an aspect of the motivation factor though it nevertheless plays an important role in their visitor experience. They range from professional athletes, amateur enthusiasts, and hobbyists.
There is a wide range of sports activities that draw such tourists, from diving and cycling to mountain biking, skiing, and kayaking.
These are tourists who visit sports related attractions. For example the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, the NASCAR Hall of Fame in North Carolina, the FIFA World Football Museum in Zurich, home of the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field, or the MSG stadium in Australia.
Sports tourism is very dependent on location as it is the determining factor for if a sporting event will be held, a sports activity will take place, or the existence of an institution commemorating a sport, team, or player. If your Airbnb is located in an area that has no access to any of these, it is unlikely that you will be able to market to this niche. For those that do however, here are our top tips to attracting sports tourists to your vacation rental.
Enhance your Airbnb profile depending on what type of sports tourism your vacation rental can cater to. If you are located near a great golf course, for example, mention it in your description including the distance from the course and keywords that guests are likely to search for. Include high-quality pictures of visitors enjoying the sporting attractions you are promising. (Check out our blog on Proven Ways to Increase your Airbnb SEO ranking.)
Offer guests access to gears, trainers, guides, etc, making your Airbnb a one-stop shop for the sports activity they are hoping to engage in. For example, if you are located in a mountain known for its biking trails, offer mountain bikes, helmets, gloves, and other gear that they will need to partake in the activity. You can top this off with a bag of essentials like water and energy bars that they can easily take with them as they go biking, a list of emergency numbers they can contact if required, a first aid box, etc.
According to Airbnb, properties that enable Instant Book benefit from increased visibility and ultimately more bookings. Instant Book increases your Airbnb’s view-to-booking stats, allows it to show up when people filter by Instant Book, and increases occupancy. Instant Book also gives you a minimum of 24 hours to cancel if your guest research shows red flags and you can turn it off whenever you want.
Sports Experience bookings on Airbnb have grown 380% year over year and is one of the top five Experience categories booked by Airbnb guests from all over the world. This is true of all demographics but is particularly popular among GenZ (18-24 years old) and seniors (60-90 years old) who are responsible for year-over-year growth of 513% and 433% respectively.
Airbnb hosts offer a wide range of sports experiences, from surfing and quad biking to sailing and donkey trekking. You can even take a samurai course by hosts in Japan or the Lucha libre experience in Mexico alongside a journalist.
Ask your sports tourist guests to review your property. Reviews are important for any Airbnb vacation rental as they play a key role in motivating guests to pick you over competitors. Your sports tourist visitors are bound to mention their great experience particularly in relation to the sport experiences you offer and thereby encourage future sports tourists to book your Airbnb.
Sports tourists tend to travel in groups, be it as families or friends, so maximize your space to cater to a higher number of guests. Removing clutter, adding in vertical storage, pull-out beds, etc will allow you to easily increase the number of guests you can host without requiring a major refurbishment.
Aligning yourself as an accommodation partner with local sports organizations, particularly those with state and/or national affiliations is a great way to ensure you receive bookings when a sports event is held near your location.