Airbnb vs. Other STR platforms
Short-term rental (STR) industry has been in existence for a long time. Prior to dot com era, vacation rental managers would take care of marketing, managing and maintenance of vacation properties. These managers would typically work with travel agents, tour operators, Corporations, etc. to bring in the clientele.
In early 21st century, platforms such as Home Away, VRBO, etc. started bursting into the scene, allowing customers to book vacation properties online. Homeaway, backed by investors, acquired 20+ platforms to become one of the biggest vacation rental marketplace. Airbnb, founded in 2008, really took off in 2012 out of relative obscurity. Airbnb was initially viewed as a platform for hosts to share extra space or even a couch. However, today it is the biggest platform with over 4+ million listings across the world.
I have been a great admirer of Airbnb and their support to Host community in Toronto. Recently, we were involved in consultation seminars with the City of Toronto councillors on regulations of short-term rentals in Toronto. Airbnb’s representatives were in touch with host community, educating and rallying support at every stage. A lot of hosts showed up to these meeting, wearing Airbnb t-shirts and pins supporting the cause. This wouldn’t have been possible without the motivation and leadership shown by Airbnb’s team. However, I was disappointed that there were only one or two representatives from other STR platforms such as Expedia speaking at the meeting.
In this blog, I will make an attempt to highlight the top 5-6 STR platform and compare them from a host’s perspective:
- AIRBNB: It is the biggest and I feel, the most technologically advanced, STR market place. We continue to only list and market properties on Airbnb for a following reasons:
- Interaction with guests – Since Casadell manages properties on behalf of its clients, it is extremely important for us to learn about our guests before hosting them. I find that Airbnb guests are usually more open to interaction and provide information quickly as requested.
- Features – payments, damage deposit, resolution centre, co-hosting, calendar rules and much more. These features definitely make hosting easy.
- Customer Service – Airbnb has a good customer service team. The wait times to speak to a representative has decreased drastically in the last few months. The staff is very courteous and mostly helpful.
- Homeaway: The second biggest vacation rental platform, Homeaway has over a million listing worldwide. They have acquired numerous brands – VRBO, vacationrentals.com, Abritel, Stayz, and many more. It’s a popular platform among hosts looking beyond Airbnb. However, travelers will likely not be interacting much with hosts. We have never hosted on Homeaway after receiving mixed feedback from local hosts in Toronto.
- Booking.com: One of my favorite platforms to book hotels, Booking.com has been rapidly growing vacation rental inventory. They like to work with Property Management Companies, so the rentals are professionally managed and will not have a host online. Booking.com tends to have a very traveller friendly cancellation policy. We have tried hosting through this platform couple of times and our experience hasn’t been positive.
- Payments – The platform does not support online payments. So the hosts are required to collect credit card details of guests and charge them directly or collect cash at the time of check-in.
- Longer wait time for customer support – On average it would take us 30 – 45 minutes to speak to a customer representative.
- Higher number of guest cancellations – Since cancellations are fully refundable, we noticed that many customers would book, not provide credit card details and then cancel the reservation.
- Limited interaction with guests – Although, this is not a short-fall of the platform, guests who book through Booking.com hardly ever respond after the booking. There were so many times that I had to involve customer support since the guest wouldn’t respond to calls or emails.
- Expedia: The travel giant recently started displaying listings on Homeaway. Travelers can now book the listings directly through Expedia with instant confirmation. Travelers are looking for a hotel like experience and do not prefer much interaction. We have mixed reviews from local hosts, and hence decided to stay away from it.
- Flipkey: Is a subsidiary of Trip Advisor, which is the biggest online travel community in the world and the go to place for most travelers planning their trip. I have tried Flipkey in the past and received a lot of inquiries but no bookings. The platform is very user friendly, the guests tend to interact with hosts, decent customer service, and much more. I feel that they are the dark horse, and given the strong user base of Trip Advisor, can give compete strongly with Airbnb and Homeaway.
- Roomorama (now defunct): Popular in the Asian countries, Roomorama had over 800,000 listings before shutting down in July 2017. Reason for shutting down, increased competition and higher regulations.
Below comparison outlines fees on each platform. Clearly, all the platform charge the same fees but the distribution between hosts and guests varies.
|Credit card fee||None||3%||None||None|
*Homeaway offer two pricing options to host – fixed subscription and per booking
There are plenty of options to choose from. We encourage Hosts to understand their target audience and then decide the hosting platform. For e.g. vacation renters tend to use Homeaway; whereas business travelers or millennial prefer to book through Airbnb. If you decide to list your property on multiple platforms, then make sure your calendars are up-to date. There are many companies providing a multi-listing platform and charge a fixed monthly or per booking fees. For more details, watch out for our next blog.