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Summer vacationers increasingly prefer Airbnb to hotels

by Arye Zucker - May 16, 2019

Image credit: Photo by Ethan Robertson on Unsplash

Nearly half of all Americans don’t plan to take a summer vacation this year, and that’s a troubling trend for the hotel industry. What’s more is that according to Rakuten Intelligence, 21.2 percent of all 2017 summer vacation reservations were booked through Airbnb, up from 17.5 percent the year before. Overall online summer vacation reservations in 2017 are up 27.7 percent compared with summer 2016, but in that time Airbnb has seen 54.6 percent growth compared to the 22.0 percent growth for the online hotel booking sites.

Airbnb’s growing power as a summer-vacation-reservation destination may have something to do with how easy it is to book reservations with shorter notice. In 2017, people who booked an online summer vacation hotel reservation did so an average of 65.4 days in advance. Comparatively, people who booked their summer vacation lodging through Airbnb in 2017 did so an average of 48.3 days in advance, though that number grew from 44.5 in 2016 and 38.1 in 2015.

Airbnb’s growth is continuing even in the early stages of this summer. Vacation reservations made before July 1 for June, July, or August with Airbnb are up 50.5 percent compared with 2017. The same reservations for online hotel booking sites are down one percent year over year. As of the end of June 2018, Airbnb’s market share is up 8.3 points from 2017 to 32.4 percent, while online hotel booking sites’ market share is down 12 points from 2017 to 68.6 percent. Since the summer of 2015, Airbnb’s market share has nearly doubled.

Airbnb gives long-term vacationers a home

Online hotel booking sites see the majority of their short-term bookings come from vacationers looking for short-term stays, which we define as being between four and six days. In 2017, nearly 80 percent of summer vacation reservations booked through online hotel booking websites were “short-term,” and that trend is slowly growing year over year. Stays of 7-13 days made up almost all of the remaining summer vacation bookings (19.1 percent), while online summer vacation hotel bookings made up less than one percent of bookings.

In contrast, while Airbnb also sees the majority of its reservations (64.5 percent in 2017) booked four to six days, the longer the stay, the more likely people are to book through Airbnb. Nearly 3 percent of Airbnb customers booked a reservation between 14-20 days in 2017, and 5.6 percent had a reservation booked for at least three weeks.

Airbnb is the go-to long-term lodging option

While online hotel bookings are champions of the short stay

Gen X and Boomers are most likely to book a traditional hotel

In 2017, 32.8 percent of Airbnb summer vacation customers were between the ages of 25-34, by far the biggest demographic breakout for the online rental company. By contrast, more than a quarter (25.2 percent) of online hotel reservations were made by guests between the ages of  45 and 54 --which comprised the largest percentage of online hotel summer vacation customers in the last year. Airbnb isn’t just for the youth of America, though. In fact, across almost all age groups booking summer vacations, the number of Airbnb guests grew more year on year than did those who reserved hotels online. In online hotel bookings’ largest demographic, 45-54 year olds, Airbnb grew 38.5 percent, compared with the 10.8 percent growth shown for online hotel bookings. The strongest growth--32.7 percent--came from Generation X.

More than half of Airbnb bookings are by those younger than 45

Building strength among the younger demographics

“Long-term stays are clearly Airbnb’s sweet spot,” says Ken Cassar, principal analyst,  Rakuten Intelligence. “The cleaning fees that represent a material component of price for a short trip are less consequential for a long one. But we are starting to see the beginning of a key trend in the lodging industry.” 

“In its first years,” Cassar continues, “Airbnb’s growth was disconcerting to established hotel brands, but we are starting to see consumers settle into the habits that will define the future of the hospitality industry. In some cases, it makes sense to simply book a hotel room, but in others Airbnb fills a need that historically hadn’t been available to consumers. As always, in a competitive environment, the consumer wins.”

About this data

With a panel of over 5.5 million online shoppers, Rakuten Intelligence gives the most detailed, and accurate digital commerce data available, and is reported daily.

Rakuten Intelligence is the only service to measure digital commerce directly from the consumer, across all retailers, at the item level, and over time. Our retailer-independent methodology precisely measures commerce as it happens. By extracting detailed information from hundreds of millions of aggregated and anonymized e-receipts, Slice can map the entire Purchase Graph, connecting each and every consumer to all their purchases.

Rakuten Intelligence gets its data from e-receipts – not a browser, app or software installed by the end-user – so its measurement reflects comprehensive shopping behavior across multiple devices, over time, which are key in an increasingly omnichannel retail world. Slice Intelligence is the exclusive e-commerce data provider for NPD’s Checkout Tracking e-commerce service.