Properties under management: 120
First listed on Airbnb: 2018
Key result: Doubled bookings during the shoulder seasons
Other results: Airbnb now represents 25% of all bookings
Tourism came late to Vieux-Boucau-les-Bains. Until the 1980s, the sleepy town of 1,500 on the southwest coast of France remained undiscovered, even as nearby coastal towns teemed with vacationers during the summer months. But now some 20,000 visitors flock to Vieux-Boucau each year in the peak months of July and August.
Aupa Immobilier, a real-estate and property management agency, rode Vieux-Boucau’s tourism boom over the past eight years, building a thriving business that includes managing some 120 rental apartments and homes. July and August are always close to full occupancy, with guests coming from a mix of global booking sites and French-specific vacation rental services.
But as the agency’s staff spoke with guests in recent years, a shift in the market became evident. “More and more people start their vacation planning by going to Airbnb first,” says Marie Picherit, who has overseen rentals for Aupa for the past five years. “It’s become the main website for booking vacation accommodations. We had to try it.”
"More and more people start their vacation planning by going to Airbnb first,” says Marie Picherit, who has overseen rentals for Aupa for the past five years. “It’s become the main website for booking vacation accommodations. We had to try it.
Starting early in 2018, Aupa began listing its properties on Airbnb. The impact was immediate. During the peak season of July and August, occupancy, which was already high, inched up. But what surprised—and delighted—Aupa is what happened at other times of year.
Last year, Airbnb brought a steady stream of guests outside of summer months. In particular, bookings in May and June, and in September and October, more than doubled, seemingly overnight. “Being on Airbnb has allowed us to grow our season,” Marie says. “Homeowners were pleased, of course.”
It’s not hard to see why a growing number of vacationers have fallen in love with Vieux-Boucau. The town sits at the southern end of a stretch of pristine sandy beaches. That makes Vieux-Boucau popular with everyone from surfers eager to ride the Atlantic’s waves to families with small children drawn to the calmer waters of a nearby lagoon. Most stay a week and two, with the average stay being 11 days.
The transition to Airbnb, which now accounts for roughly one in four of Aupa’s bookings, has been smooth. While some guests have been surprised that their Airbnb bookings were handled by an agency, and not a homeowner, Marie and her colleagues have worked to make sure their expectations for hospitality are met.
After receiving a booking, Aupa staff send guests a message to introduce themselves, says Marie. “It’s a way for them to see we’re professionals and that we’re always available if any issues come up. And we always explain that we’ll give them the same warm welcome an owner would.”
And as more and more property management agencies move onto Airbnb, the questions from guests are becoming less frequent.
From a logistical standpoint, the move over to Airbnb was also painless for Aupa. The agency already managed its listings and guests with a popular French software platform, which offers connections with various booking sites, including Airbnb.
“It was really easy to put our rentals on Airbnb,” says Marie.
Aupa is now working to attract more homeowners, and its success with Airbnb is certain to be a draw. Bookings for the 2019 season have begun, and the level of interest has already matched last year’s. “We hope it will be even better,” says Marie. “We’re quite optimistic.”