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Advocacy
Reengineering
Airbnb Referral Program
Airbnb Referral Program

Run a double-sided referral program with a custom currency like Airbnb’s.

Example

The premise for the Airbnb's business model seemed risky as people never heard about such thing before and some were scared that it was just a smokescreen for human trafficking or God knows what else. That’s why Airbnb grew to rely heavily on positive reviews and word-of-mouth to promote its services. No wonder that soon enough the first Airbnb referral program was born.

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Advocacy
Reengineering
Airbnb Referral Program

Airbnb Referral Program

Run a double-sided referral program with a custom currency like Airbnb’s.

Example

The premise for the Airbnb's business model seemed risky as people never heard about such thing before and some were scared that it was just a smokescreen for human trafficking or God knows what else. That’s why Airbnb grew to rely heavily on positive reviews and word-of-mouth to promote its services. No wonder that soon enough the first Airbnb referral program was born.

Main Benefits

  • This is a great example of a double-sided referral program in the travel industry that became very popular and brought in many new customers to Airbnb. 
  • This program had several limitations in place that help prevent referral fraud and abuse.
  • Airbnb was a new concept and referral program helped them tremendously to get the word out about this new idea for travelling. It has helped to break the mental barriers for people about staying in a strangers’ house, if friends did so, it was easier to think about doing it yourself. 

Program rules

Despite that in 2021 the Airbnb's referral program got discontinued, marketers can still learn a lot from this great referral success story. How did the Airbnb referral program work?

Friends who registered with a referral link got Travel Credits they could spend on travels, in return referrers got Travel Credits after their friends completed a first-time stay or experience (Qualifying Reservation). The number of Travel Credits varied between markets and offers.


Of course, there were some limitations in place to prevent referral fraud. Here are some of the most notable ones:


  • Limit on the maximum number of Total Credits. The maximum Travel Credit that could be earned per Member will be $5,000 USD total in respect of Qualifying Home Reservations and Qualifying Hosting Reservations and $2,000 USD in respect of Qualifying Experience Reservations.
  • A referred friend had to finish the stay (check-out) in order for the stay to be counted as successful; also the referrer couldn't be the host. 
  • A Qualifying Reservation had to have the minimum total value (excluding guest fees or taxes) indicated in the referral invitation, accompanying promotional materials, Airbnb website, or Airbnb mobile application for that type of reservation.
  • It was impossible to accrue Travel Credits on different accounts or to transfer Travel Credits.
  • Travel Credits had no cash value and couldn't be exchanged for money as they served only for promotional purposes.
  • It was forbidden to share referral links on commercial websites.
  • Expiration date of a promo code and the Travel Credits earned was 1 year.
  • A referred friend could only use one referral link once, for their first booking, under 28 nights.

Best Practices

  • Implementing an expiration date to the referral link makes sense as it limits accrued liabilities in the future. Also, if someone redeems the discount after a long period of time, it is probably thanks to another means of advertising and they just remembered they had a discount for the product or service. 
  • The Airbnb program has no cap on the possible number of referrals and it gives the same reward to the referrer for each successful referral. If that makes sense for your business, you could limit the number of referrals one person can make and vary the rewards for first, second and subsequent referrals either by making them increase or decrease with the number of referrals.

Learn from Leaders

Are you wasting time and money on digital promotions?

It’s time for a change.