20 min read

BnBird: a partner we can learn from!

by Ricardo Figueiredo, Co-Founder & CEO

Published December 21, 2019


At LUGGit we work every day with our partners. They are important to our activity and we are important to them. With LUGGit, our partners' customers have access to a service that gives them much more free time to see the city without worry. We care about maintaining a strong and healthy relationship with our partners. We like to understand them better, to know them and to know how we can help them more and better. We decided to talk to Guilherme Afonso and Miguel Correia, founders and CEOs of BnBird:

LUGGit: How did you meet and why was BnBird born?

BnBird: We worked in a production company since 2012, Miguel was a director and I was an audio editor and in late 2015 we had a lot of work. I still miss it when I talk about this, but the area of production is not very stimulating in Portugal and the salaries are not attractive as well as outside. We were doing some institutional films and television advertising, but the deadlines, pressure, and stress made us leave. Later we found out that this also gave a lot of stress (laughs). In 2016 Miguel talked to me after a trip and told me about this project a little crazy. There was no money, and no one could come in with big capital. Miguel designed the whole financial part and after some meetings, we decided to start the project in 2016. Officially, the company was created in 2017. We started with an interesting apartment, T1, which we manage to this day.

LUGGit: Going back a bit, so why this area?

BnBird: I've had an apartment where I've been doing local accommodation (LA) since 2014. I took advantage of the boom and when I started exploring the apartment it was still a time when it was worth buying real estate. Miguel already told me about tourism and the golden egg that is tourism when we met. Tourism was always part of our conversations. I never imagined opening a Short Term Rental company, but here I am. And it is a very attractive project, despite the stress and hard work it gives. In the beginning, we did all the cleaning, check-ins, billing, we did the whole process. We now have 12 people with us in Full Time. Our first office was a hall along with several rooms. The landlord put up a dividing curtain and that was our space for a year. It was a very fun part of our journey. Then we moved to another office, something more serious. However, that office started to get small because our team started to grow.

LUGGit: You have 120 lodgings right now. What are the biggest challenges you face?

BnBird: Two things are very important here. We have two different clients: it's the guest and the owner. On the one hand, we want to provide the best for the guest, but we also want to provide the highest possible return to the owner. We have to be hard on one side to favor the other and vice versa. The most challenging part from now on will be dealing with the owners. Because many have realized that the golden age of LA is already beginning to disappear, but it is still very important to manage expectations. Not for tourism breakdown, but for massification. Nowadays there is a lot of competition and I think the yields will start to go down too, so there will also be a lot of people who will want to leave this business. This year was more challenging than the previous ones.

LUGGit: What is the BnBird brand for apartment owners and travelers? That is, what are you as a brand? What do you want the people who contact you to feel? Why should anyone choose BnBird?

BnBird: One of the things we have from the start is trust and closeness. All the owners we deal with, from all countries, to them BnBird is still Miguel and Guilherme. There is still this relationship of trust with the owners because most of them are foreign. They give us the keys and they are in their countries. They come to visit us from time to time because many have Golden Visa and have to come here for a season. There is a lot of this care and attention with the owner. This is what distinguishes us from companies like Hostmaker and Feelikehome, where such contact no longer exists. When there are meetings where we will see the apartment, we sometimes come across the competition and is often a commercial that represents the company. This has made a lot of difference. One of our goals is to expand. We are already in Porto, and if you ask who is BnBird in Porto is this same person, it is not us. The people who work with us must have the same philosophy. At the experience level, it turns out to be very transparent because owners also have access to profitability reports. The keyword is always: trust. The service we deliver to the owner is a 360º service. A homeowner can hand us the keys of the unfurnished property and in a month, we can prepare the property with furniture and everything needed to make it profitable. Sometimes it costs us a lot to say no to a customer. There it is, the situation of managing expectations. Because the customer thinks he has a big house and in fact, that's not the case.

LUGGit: And what did you do with the person from Porto so that she can pass the same trust as you to the clients of Porto?

BnBird: This person is very special, is the mother of a friend of mine from the university. It's a lady over 50 years old. With many years of business, she has always had companies. It is Colombian but has been in Portugal for over 40 years. Basically, we told her that message and what we apply to owners, we also teach her the trust and transparency because all the money goes first here and then we transfer to Porto. In Porto, for months we generated about 300 € per month, but she believed. We had only one house and now we have 20 times more sales and more than 30 houses to manage. She did a lot of commercial and decoration work. I cannot say that there was a course. In fact, we were very lucky because she is a spectacular and very demanding person. At the level of cleanliness, she requires always an incredible level. She says that when she goes to a house to check-in, she has to be able to put the lipstick with just the reflection of a spoon. We have a very different portfolio of houses, from houses from 50 € to 400 € and we always have to maintain quality in any of them.

LUGGit: We're here to talk about the future too. What are your goals?

BnBird: One of the projects is to grow in the number of houses and geographical location. The expansion goes through Portugal. Growth has to be sustainable. It cannot be abrupt growth. It has no use having 200 houses if I can't keep up the good service. We want to grow slowly and calmly. There was a time when we felt the need to calm growth a bit because we started to have a lot of houses and we took advantage of that wave to increase our commission. This increase also serves as a brake on the emergence of new homes in our portfolio. There are two ways to grow: one is with the number of homes; another is to grow in quality itself. I can have 100 houses and rent at 60 € or 70 € per night or have 30 houses and rent at 300 € per night. Therefore, we want to grow in two ways: to keep the same number of houses in Lisbon, but to refresh our portfolio, that is, to increase the level of houses we have. Then we want to go to other locations and do the same. We want to go soon to the Algarve and grow out, either to Brazil or the Netherlands or another country. In these locations at least, we both know people and we already have customers and potential partners who live there - which could be halfway there. In Brazil, it is a market that is only appearing now, still far from what it is in Europe. It may be interesting to take the know-how from here to Brazil. In our case, all check-ins are done in person and we also have some projects to automate some processes in lower ranges.

LUGGit: Which partnerships are most important to you for the service?

BnBird: Cleaning and maintenance. They are the two keys. 99% of the work is done by external partners. If the customer comes into the apartment and is totally clean and functional, I would say that is 85% of the reasons for a good review. If the customer has had an extended waiting time before entering the apartment, he may even forget that as soon as he enters because he sees an apartment in good condition. But if he has the same unpleasant moment and then enters the apartment with dirty or open furniture, he will almost certainly give it a bad review. Therefore, cleaning and maintenance are really key. Everything outside of it is always a bonus. For example, tours, transfers and even LUGGit or breakfast delivery partnerships. In the case of LUGGit, we have had several comments that refer to you, positively.

LUGGit: Why did you decide to choose LUGGit even without knowing us anywhere?

BnBird: The way the project was explained at the time was very interesting. And then there's also a factor here that we always want to offer the best to our guests. It seemed to us a very interesting and innovative service. The innovation part also had a fundamental weight here. And because we believe in new projects. If people didn't believe us either, we weren't talking here. That's what made us decide that it would make sense to bring LUGGit to us. Nowadays people live a lot with technologies, everything is done with applications. We are always trying to bring this technology to this market through automatic locks or other ways and so we are always thinking about how to innovate. It has to do with innovation and also with people like you, who are entrepreneurs. And also, what is very important is the service that is provided to the guest. We have a lot of emails that offer us partnerships and sometimes we prefer not to do it because it's complicated. With LUGGit, we just need to send a link with the code to the customer and it's done. That was one of the things we liked about LUGGit, its simplicity. People here already have a lot of work and this is simpler than recommending luggage storage. Searching for a luggage storage, if it's open at that time and which one is closer gives us more work. Your solution is much more appealing to the guest and offers greater comfort.


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