Has the Airbnb bubble burst?

Only 4% of Americans are considering Airbnb for their next vacation according to a survey from forex giant Travelex.

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.

Carlson Wagonlit recently said; “one-in-ten travellers on business are already using Airbnb, with the figure rising to 21% for millennials“.

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.

As context: Airbnb was set to to double bookings to 80 million worldwide this year, according to an investors report seen by Reuters.

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

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Martin Cowen

About the Writer :: Martin Cowen

Martin Cowen is contributing editor for tnooz and is based in the UK. Besides reporting and editing, he also oversees our sponsored content initiative and works directly with clients to produce articles and reports. For the past several years he has worked as a freelance writer, specialising in B2B distribution and technology. 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.



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  1. Laurren

    It might take few years before seeing any slowing down on airbnb activities. Actually, the company is still reinventing itself and might come up with another great idea to boost and grow their visits and activities as well.
    Such surveys are not really accurate or representing any travel-related industry.

  2. Jenney


  3. duke

    According to Alexa.com rankings,
    in terms of most trafficked websites,
    AirBnb has leapfrogged past Hotels.com, priceline.com, agoda.com, orbitz.com
    to become the 170th most used website in USA and 475th worldwide.

    The last time I check in Sept. 2014, Airbnb was 427th in USA and 874th worldwide.
    I don’t see them slowing anytime soon.
    In USA they are only behind Expedia 106th and kayak.com 145th and have surpassed booking.com at 351st place.
    All other travel sites I looked at lost ground except AirBnb and Expedia (holding steady)

    One amazing statistic is that AirBnb has the highest “time on site” with an average 10+ minutes!
    That is higher than every other travel site. (maybe since people sit and wait for a request response?)
    Kayak is the only site with a lower bounce rate 14.6% (the lowest) and only 5 minutes average on site. (very efficient, people find what they want)
    I don’t see why AirBnB can’t be #1 in the next few years. They have a better pricing structure (free +3% commission) and charge the user a booking fee directly.
    This solves all the issues with booking.com (rate parity, high commissions, limited listing details) and places the fees more toward the guest who is using the service. I think its a winning model. They just need to bring in more traditional lodging types and get an API going for instant inventory and they will be unstoppable.

  4. William Beckler

    Maybe the headline should be: “Survata is a poor way to gather stats about the accommodations market.” There is a class of people who sit in their homes and make pennies by answering surveys all day. They know how to lie to make it seem like they qualify for travel-related surveys while never having actually traveled. I have gotten garbage data back from online survey vendors that looks exactly like this.

  5. Jared

    Airbnb is just getting started. Their growth has at least doubled every year for the past 4 years. Only 10% of all Airbnb guests are business travelers, which presents a huge opportunity for them and while they have a ways to go in this area, there is a focused effort to capture this market share. They are also so flush with cash that they can spend $8 million lobbying local governments (like they did in San Francisco) and still have enough money to launch multi channel global ad campaigns.

  6. Albert Boswijk

    It is the actual behaviour that counts. Not what they say. I would count on exponential insecurity for hotels . See our latest study in Tourism futures

  7. Bruce Rosard

    I think the data could be skewed because Airbnb has not done a good job yet differentiating their sharing home/apartment/condo service from their basic rental service. If the question was “are you considering a vacation rental property or a apartment unit rental” for your next trip, the numbers would likely be a lot higher. Every day, more of Airbnb’s inventory for private units increases, putting them in tighter competition with HomeAway, Flipkey, Booking.com, etc. My guess is that the survey didn’t reflect this reality, when a consumer thinks Airbnb, they often think about sharing someone’s home/apartment.

  8. Wayne Lawhorn

    If the Entire Hotel / Lodging Industry was surveyed about “How many would use them for their next vacation”, the Stats would be narrow, because Hotels are used daily by need. Maybe the question are you as likely to use AirBNB as you would another Lodging/Hotel Vendor ?

  9. Linda D.

    It would be interesting to know how many age 50+ Americans (Boomers) choose Airbnb lodging rather than hotels. As many of them retire and/or sell their homes and travel more, Airbnb offers a better value for long-term stays than hotels. As a 55-yr old American, I sold my home last year and stay mostly in Airbnb properties now. The biggest difference I’ve seen is in the hosts – American hosts cancel reservations more frequently, use Airbnb to sublet their apartment rather than break their lease and are less responsive than European hosts who rent their apartments for investment income. In my experience, European hosts are more gracious and concerned with providing a better guest experience than Americans.


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