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A very simple equation for hospitality to keep in mind is:

Expectations > Reality = Disappointment

Basically, when your guests’ expectations are higher than the reality of what they get, they are likely likely to be disappointed. Conversely, if the reality is better than what they had expected, the result may be delight. The key is setting appropriate expectations, then not only delivering on them but also finding a way to surpass them.

An accurate description is the foundation for a successful experience since negative guest reviews are often based on unmet expectations. According to the description on the experience page, guests should know what to expect on your experience. This includes the timing of the experience, who’s hosting, the location, what’s provided, and what guests will do.


The timing of the experience

We’ve seen that one of the top issues mentioned in low-star reviews by guests is that the experience started late. As you may imagine, guests’ time can be incredibly precious while they’re on vacation.

Experiences not starting on time, or going over the scheduled end-time (or ending much earlier) can disrupt guests’ plans and lead to disappointment. One way to avoid that happening is to practice your experience with friends or family to ensure you have set the advertised length of time appropriately. If there are any delays, it’s a good idea to communicate them to your guests as proactively as possible.

Keep in mind that guests may have made plans after your experience so going over-time could negatively impact the rest of their day or evening.


Who’s hosting

What sets Airbnb Experiences apart from a traditional tour or workshop is the host and the element of personal connection they bring to the activity. Guests often choose to book an experience based on the host’s bio on their experience page, attracted by the expertise and passion described there.

Imagine the guests’ disappointment if upon arrival to the experience, the host they were excited to meet is nowhere to be found and instead, they find an unknown person. That not only erodes trust in the Airbnb platform, but also begins the experience on an awkward note.

If you are co-hosting your experience with someone else, be sure they’re also described in the “About your host” section and that it is made clear to guests in advance who will be there to greet them.


Where you’ll be

Changing the meeting location or the places visited during the experience without proper notice to your guests can lead to unmet expectations. Sometimes guests make plans based on the locations listed on your experience page (whether it’s arrangements for things to do immediately before or after the experience, or for transportation to and from it). If changes need to be made, it’s a good idea to communicate those changes to your guests as early and clearly as possible.

Keep in mind that if it’s a last-minute change some guests may not receive the message since they may be traveling internationally without access to data on their phones.

I updated the meeting location and two guests didn’t get or understand the message/change. They finally caught up to the group, one person was very irritated… She wanted money back and I offered to finish up the tour with the rest of the group, then double back to the areas she didn’t get to see… I [learned] to not move my experience meeting spot or rely on my customers being tech savvy with the app and messaging some simply never get the message. Korey, photography host in Washington, DC


What’s provided

If you say you’ll provide an item or service on your experience page, be sure you’re prepared to deliver it to your guests. For example, if your page says you will provide two drinks but you only provide one during the experience, it is very likely guests will remember that when they leave a review.

It’s a good idea to review what you’ve listed on your page before your guests arrive just to double-check that you have the necessary supplies to offer what you have promised.

Remember that what you have listed as “included” is the bare minimum that your guests will expect, so an easy way to go beyond expectations is to “under-promise and over-deliver” by including a surprise or extra item that is not otherwise listed on your page.


What guests will do

Describing the flow of your experience with a beginning, middle, and end on your experience page can not only help give prospective guests an idea of what you’re offering, but it can also help set appropriate expectations for booked guests by giving an overview of what will happen when.


What guests expect from Airbnb Experiences

Keep in mind that instances of an experience should be exclusive to guests booking through Airbnb. Mixing in guests booked through other platforms can be confusing to the Airbnb guests who have arrived expecting the number of guests posted on your experience page. The small group sizes for Airbnb Experiences are meant to foster a sense of connection between the host and guests.

I understood that there are different expectations regarding the experience and nowadays before starting the tour I ask what the person expects from the experience and the reason for having booked my tour. With these answers, I can better identify who those people are and adapt the tour according to their expectations. Gabriela, walking tour host in Rio