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Guide to Leaving Airbnb Experience Reviews

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

This Guide should be a help for Airbnb Experience Hosts to understand the review system a bit better but I'm also hoping to educate Airbnb Experience Guests to make better choices when leaving a review. Leaving negative comments, dropping stars or answering the Airbnb additional questions carelessly can have a negative result for the Host and damage their business.

I was brought up with the phrase 'If you've nothing good to say; then say nothing at all'. Have we become a society of people who just have to gripe online over the slightest little thing that is out of place or where our lofty expectations were not met? I find it more than a little sad that most people cannot put themselves in other people's shoes for a couple of minutes and try and see things from another perspective. If you are just going to be negative, why leave a review at all?

The information below and advice could also apply to users of Airbnb properties and how you might leave feedback. Although I'm aware that the duel Feedback system there has its own issues where Guest and Host sometimes leave negatives for each other; which is detrimental to both parties. I'm hoping to shed light on the review process for all users in this blog post so please read on if you have a few minutes.

Broken Windows Theory

In my opinion, adding negatives is the equivalent of 'The Broken Windows Theory'. I heard this phrase mentioned in the TV Series Blue Bloods and thought it was a very accurate explanation of human nature.

The first negative feedback or dropped star may allow, encourage or embolden the next person to also be negative, much the same as the first broken window in an empty building encourages other people to break windows too. Hence the name 'Broken Windows Theory'. Negativity breeds negativity in real life and online. In the last 5 years, the internet seems to have become an increasingly negative place. Who would have thought that the internet, one of the greatest inventions in the history of our species; a shining light of knowledge sharing and advancement could have degenerated into a cesspool of ignorance, stupidity and hate.

Think about Youtube and Facebook who came to a similar conclusion a few years ago. After careful consideration, Facebook removed the thumbs down completely and Youtube removed the counter on the thumbs down. This removed a lot of the negativity around posts and videos immediately. On YouTube, the creator still sees the amount of thumbs down but the end user does not. The thumbs down however still counts towards the ranking of the video which negatively affects the maker and also their revenue generation. Most users never consider this though.

My Background

I am a professional Woodturner from Tralee Co Kerry Ireland and I have been in Business since 2015. I became a Host for Airbnb Experiences at the end of the 2019 season. Up until recently, I ran 3 loosely linked Experiences related to my Woodturning Business. Covid caused over a year of a gap in my customer base and getting tourists back has been a very hard slog.

I had a consistent 5 star rating on all 3 Experiences and my Ornament Making Experience was by far the most popular. The other two Experiences had only a few Guests each with only a couple of Feedbacks received. I also run Woodturning Tuition and Woodturning Experiences through my own website so I am thankfully not fully reliant on Airbnb Experiences to make my living.

Turning an Ornament on a Vicmarc VL300
David Condon Turning an Ornament

Recent Issues Changed my Opinion of Airbnb

I had 2 Guests attend one of my other Experiences recently. Both were not from Ireland and obviously did not read the Experience Description very well. The Experience was designed to be a very basic introduction to Woodturning, which many people around the world will never see or take part in.

Language difference was a little bit to blame here but not the cause of any problems on the day. Both left the 'Try it Out Experience' with smiles saying they enjoyed their time however I could tell that they wanted to do more at the time but that was not what the Experience Description allowed for. Had they read the description properly, they would have understood clearly what was on offer. Alas, it appears they did not.

The Host is Tied to Their Description

As Hosts, we have to describe the Experience as accurately as possible and stick to that. Our accounts could be in trouble if we deviated from the description and a complaint was made to Airbnb. If one of my Guests wanted to do more, they could have chosen another one of my Experiences or better still; find my Website which offers far more flexibility in Experience content and prices for that matter. In this case, they chose the least expensive option and the end result was as described below.

Good Review but Bad Score

I got the Airbnb email the day after their Experience letting me know that new Feedback had arrived and opened it expecting a good review like I normally receive. 4 out of 5 stars appeared, ok; not the end of the world but not great considering the work that I put into the Experience. The review wording was very positive with the caveat that they wished they could have done a bit more. I guess I was expecting something like this based on my feeling at the end of the Experience.

Upon checking the Airbnb desktop view I discovered a huge knockdown to my rating. Most people are not aware that Airbnb ask questions about 3 more aspects of the Experience and obviously don't tell the Guest that this affects the Host's score on the website. Lower the score, the lower that Hosts Experiences appear in search rankings, ultimately damaging their reputation on the site and quite possibly affecting future earnings.

In 2 of the questions the Guests knocked me back 50% on both which was a terrible rating. No Guest has ever knocked so much off for these aspects before. The end result of this was the loss of the 5.00 rating and reduction to 4.67 for a single Experience. That 0.33 doesn't sound like much to the general public but if you got more negatives that would increase the downward slide. A private comment was also left that the Experience felt rushed even though they got an extra 40 mins over the Experience allotted time.

Some Hosts would say not to worry, someone is always going to leave negative feedback but I don't agree with that. I was so upset over that review that I turned off the 2 lesser Experiences and deleted loads of extra dates that I had only added this year. I thought about emailing them and asking if they would reconsider their scores but I felt this could open up even more issues for me if they took offense. I decided to let it go in the end.

Fair Question but needs understanding

The first area they question, which is separate from the next main 3 is Do you think the Experience was good value. Fair question I suppose but the Guest may not be a business person and may not understand business overheads or the fact that an Experience although only 2 hours long may take up 5 hrs of the working day. Insurance, Machine Costs, Tools, Electricity, hourly wage for Host....the list goes on. I am also limited to a maximum of 4 Guests due to the size of my workshop and the difficulties managing each Experience.

So What are the 3 Questions they Ask?

For the Questions below, I will use my Ornament Making Experience as a reference. The Host has a direct view of the cumulative score of all previous Experiences here. I assume that the questions have a sliding scale, 1 to 5 or 1 to 10 rating system. I don't know for sure as I have never seen the Guests questionnaire. Top scores are probably difficult to achieve here as everyone will have different opinions of the Experience and some may just be trying to be honest and end up knocking off a few points because they weren't absolutely blown away.

Question 1 Expertise

I've had a few Guests knock me back a little for this and to be honest I don't know why. I don't know exactly how they ask the Guests to score their answer here but maybe marking 9 out of 10, which they might consider a great score but is still a negative count from 100%. In my case, I'm a professional Woodturner and I make a living turning and working with wood, so why knock off a point percentage for this? Maybe my explanations of each part of my processes need a bit of work? I try to improve with each Experience.

Question 2 Insights

For my Ornament Making Experience, I show Guests the behind the scenes work including all the drying areas and explain the process of tree to finished product as well as I can. I try to be brief as the actual Ornament Making is time consuming and we need to concentrate on that. The Ornament piece we work on is Ash, which is now endangered and throughout the whole event I talk about everything from my techniquess, tips and tricks to how I finish products so that they shine they way they do. These are products and processes that I do everyday. I can't see any way of improving what I already do here.

Question 3 Connection

Honestly, this is the most baffling addition and it quite possibly could be phrased wrong by Airbnb. This does not take into account regional differences, language barriers or cultural differences at all. Do you go to a restaurant expecting to make friends with the Concierge, Table Servers, Busboys or even the Chefs??? No you don't. If they remember your face the next time you go to that restaurant that may give you a good feeling but don't expect them to write to you after you go home.

Irish people are friendly and outgoing for the most part but we are still a conservative nation at heart and over-friendliness by strangers has always been viewed with a little bit of suspicion here. I'm sure this is also true for many countries around the world today. Come along for the Experience, have a laugh with us by all means and we'll part company on good terms. If you want to follow Social Media accounts you are more than welcome to do so. I may even follow you back if you are in a similar Craft but I rarely spend time on Social Media anymore. By all means, send me messages. comment on posts, like and share and I will try and answer you like I do everyone else.

My Guide to Leaving Airbnb Experience Reviews

For the Host; I would advise mentioning nicely and briefly how the review system works at the beginning or end of your Experience and if the Guests choose to leave a review, just ask them to be careful with their scores. Even seemingly benign questions can knock a business down. Some Guests may feel they are answering honestly but could be knocking you back because they are not thinking about consequences.

For the Guests: We are here to provide you with a good and enjoyable Experience. We try and make you as comfortable as possible and every effort has been made to describe the Experience in the clearest possible way. You are able to send us a private message after leaving public feedback and you can make suggestions as to how the Experience could be improved without damaging our public profile. Please consider this rather than knocking us down.

Your view of the Experience is subjective and in groups you could find several different opinions of the time spent. In my case; I have put extra effort to try and match the 3 criteria as set out by the questions on Airbnb even if I don't exactly agree with them. With everyone thinking differently, it's impossible to please everyone in a group.

Not Every Guest will Leave Feedback

Most Hosts know this already; not every Guest leaves feedback or a review. I probably have had about 25 Experiences of the Ornament Making on Airbnb at the time of writing with 17 who left reviews. I have the same Experience on my website and I've lost count of how many I have run, most without feedback. At this stage I have stopped asking Guests to leave reviews so I don't tempt fate and get some kind of negative review. I'm happy to let Guests leave reviews if it pleases them to do so without prompting. If Guests seem to have really enjoyed their time though, I will maybe drop a little hint at the end but I don't push it anymore than that.

Leaving a review

Leaving a review for an Airbnb Experience is an easy thing to do for a Guest who has recently attended one. So easy in fact that you might decide to have a little inadvertent dig at some small little part of the Experience. Please don't do that. A short positive note doesn't hurt you at all even if the Experience was a little short of the mark in your opinion. Positivity breeds Positivity and it costs nothing to be nice! Leave a short note and give the full 5 Stars. Your profile picture next to your review will forever be a positive! Many Guests do not realise or probably forget that their reviews are permanently viewable on Airbnb. Too many bad reviews is a pattern for you too!

Nobody has Written about this before!

I searched long and hard to find an Airbnb FAQ page, information page, blog post or even a hint that explains the review process from the point of view of an Airbnb Experience Host but couldn't find one. This is why I ultimately decided to write this Blog Post. If you are a Host who has had a similar bad experience with a one off feedback like the one above then this might help you a little bit. I would like to hear from you in the comments below too if you have a minute to spare. I realise that I am talking about one bad experience here but I put a lot of effort into my Experiences to make sure that each Guest has a good time. As mentioned above, negatives breed more negatives so I want to nip it in the bud.

In Conclusion

If you are a Guest attending an Experience. The Host may be a professional at what they do but may not be a natural entertainer or may struggle a little bit during the Experience. Please allow for this, you may struggle at some things in your own life and can probably relate.

Airbnb Experiences are all about finding things to do that are off the beaten path so don't judge the Host too quickly or too unfairly. Hosts can be nervous and unsure of themselves when surrounded by a group of strangers. Put yourself in their shoes for a minute. I struggle a bit at the start of each Experience and if I seem a little distracted it is because I have a lot to keep track of during the event. I also have a hard time remembering names of people in big groups which can be a little embarrassing to me.

Instead judge Hosts on the following and try not to deduct stars unnecessarily.

  • Were you made to feel welcome?

  • Did the Host follow the Experience Description Closely?

  • Did the Host try and include everyone in in the group in what was going on?

  • Did the Host try to explain everything as best they could?

  • Did you do something that you wouldn't ordinarily do at home?

  • Was the bulk of the Experience worthwhile?

A positive comment and private feedback advice to the Host will go much further than dropping stars or marking down a Host in those 3 areas. Whatever Experience you attend, try to come at it from a different point of view. You could be stuck at home watching TV, instead you are attending what could be a once in a lifetime Experience while on Vacation/Holiday that you may remember fondly for years to come.

Thanks for reading this far! Please add a comment below if you would like. David


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