Has the Airbnb bubble burst?
As part of the PR around its 40th anniversary, Travelex asked more than 2000 “census-representative” American adults about their leisure travel plans for the year. The survey was carried out last month.
Its finding that only 4% will use Airbnb for their next vacation is the stand-out statistic as it adds to the generally confused picture about just how popular Airbnb is with travellers (rather than the investment community).
Pulling out the findings for Airbnb’s typical customer doesn’t help much. Travelex found:
“Airbnb does rank higher among young professionals with 8% of those aged 25-34 years old planning to book their next trip through the site, although this is still less popular than hotels, all-inclusive resorts or bed & breakfasts.”
The 4% figure is a shocker when compared to what marketing tech firm Rocket Fuel said at the start of the year:
“Travellers from Germany and Spain are the most frequent customers of Airbnb with 35% having used the service in the last year, followed closely by 34% of French and Italians. The take-up from UK travellers is one in four.”
Even taking into account geographical and methodological differences between the Rocket Fuel and Travelex surveys, that is a big gap between what Europeans were doing last year and what Americans will do this year.
And while the Travelex survey is about leisure, the 4% figure sits uneasily with some of the soundings coming out of the corporate sector. Certify looked at US road warriors’ expense claims and found that Airbnb grew by 259% in 2015 compared with the previous year.
A recent survey of travel buyers for London’s Business Travel Show found that 20% of those asked said their travellers were using Airbnb (or Airbnb-type) accommodations.
On the other hand American Express Global Business Travel chairman Greg O’Hara told the Phocuswright conference last November that Airbnb was not blipping the radar of blue-chip corporate clients.
The Travelex survey also offers some comfort for the chain hotels, with 23% of the sample saying they will stay in an branded property. So if these travellers prefer a Marriott for their leisure break then it seems unlikely the same cohort would opt for Airbnb for a business trip.
The usual caveats apply – perhaps the preference for branded hotels reflects the finding that 41% will be travelling overseas and want the reassurance of knowing exactly what they will get.
The private company doesn’t release official totals. But the WSJ reports investors expected it to process $2.2 billion in bookings this year, which compares with a likely figure of more than $170 billion in bookings by hotel companies in the US for the year, according to Statista.
The online survey was conducted for Travelex by Survata of 2,003 census-representative US residents in January 2016. The company commissioned a similar online survey from YouGov of 2,258 census-representative US residents in October 2015.
Critics may point out that a “census-representative survey” may be prone to taking into consideration a broad swathe of the population that doesn’t travel much except to visit family relations and, even then, prefers more traditional types of travel.
Nonetheless, the 4% figure is strikingly low and suggests that Airbnb might not take over the world. That is, until the next survey comes out. Watch this space!
NB: Image by Shutterstock
Martin Cowen is a reporter for Tnooz, based in the UK. For the past six years he has worked as a freelance writer, specialising in B2B distribution and technology.
He has contributed to a number of titles including Airline Business, Buying Business Travel, APEX and Travolution.
He has also worked on a number of corporate projects for blue-chip travel tech businesses including Travelport and Amadeus, and works closely with the press and PR department for World Travel Market.
Before freelancing, from 2000-2008 he was launch editor for e-tid.com, the first online-only B2B daily news service for the UK travel sector.