Looking ‘trustworthy’ could get you more Airbnb bookings

If you’re renting out your property on Airbnb, smiling in your profile picture could make you look more trustworthy, according to new research. (Rawpixel pic)

REHOVOT: If you want to get more bookings on your Airbnb account, you might need to change your profile picture according to a new study.

Carried out by researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Department of Environmental Economics and Management, the new study looked at 320 Airbnb listings in Stockholm, Sweden and analysed the two main criteria that determine “visual trustworthiness.”

One of these criteria is the Airbnb host’s characteristics and how they look, such as their gender or facial expression, and the second is the quality of the image and whether it is blurry or clear.

The researchers explained that as many of our interactions now take place online, whether it is booking a cab, looking for a relationship, or booking a holiday rental such as those on Airbnb, photos play an important role in our decision-making process.

The findings, published in the journal Psychology & Marketing, showed that after studying the Airbnb hosts’ photos, there were certain criteria which led renters to believe a host was more trustworthy: women were believed to be more trustworthy than men, older hosts more trustworthy than younger ones, smiling hosts more than those with neutral expressions, and attractive hosts over unattractive ones.

A clear, high-quality photograph also led renters to believe the host was more trustworthy than those who posted a blurry photo.

In addition, photos that showed the host interacting with other people they also rated higher for visual trustworthiness than those which featured the host alone.

The researchers say this could be due to renters thinking that hosts who are interacting with friends are able to maintain relationships, which could indicate their reliability.

“Visual trustworthiness is king in the Airbnb arena. Hosts who are perceived as trustworthy enjoy higher prices and more frequent rentals than do hosts with less-trustworthy photos,” said Professor Aliza Fleischer.

The researchers also added that they were surprised, given the prevalence of profile photos in online interactions, that Airbnb hosts seemed to be unaware of how their photo could affect how renters perceive them.

They said that although most hosts did smile in their photos (68%) the researchers thought there would be more photographs of women in the profile photos, especially when both genders owned the property.

Although it may not be possible to meet all the criteria for a “trustworthy” photo, hosts could consider making sure their photo is a high-resolution, clear shot of them smiling, without their face obstructed, and featuring some friends.