Analysis - October 16, 2014



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October 2014


Print Accommodation, etourism and technology,

Who are these travellers booking on Airbnb?

Has Airbnb helped increase demand, or is it attracting clientele that previously stayed in other types of lodging? Read on to learn more about these travellers who rent private accommodation.

Renting short-term lodging has become an increasingly common accommodation choice for travellers, made popular by the advent of websites such as Airbnb. A survey conducted in the U.S. by PhoCusWright profiles these users and defines their behaviour as it compares to that of other traveller groups.


The web survey was conducted in February and March 2014 among 1,880 American respondents who had made at least one leisure trip during the previous 12 months. To be eligible for the survey, they had to have reserved commercial accommodation and planned the trip themselves. The company identified two categories of traveller: those who rented private accommodation (room, house or apartment), i.e., the renters (17%), and those who booked other types of accommodation for their stay (non-renters; 83%).

Young travellers with a good income

A number of factors separate the renters from the non-renters: over half (51%) of U.S. travellers who rented private accommodation during the previous year were under 35, compared to 38% of travellers who booked another type of accommodation (see Graph 1).


There was also a definite difference in earnings between the two traveller groups: 33% of non-renters had an annual household income of less than US$50,000, compared to 24% of renters. Also, the proportion of the latter group with incomes between $50,000 and $125,000 is higher than it is among non-renters, indicating that, generally speaking, renters are more prosperous than other traveller group.

Renters travel for longer and are more active

Almost two out of three renters (63%) travelled for one or two weeks during the previous year, while only 43% of non-renters were away for the same period of time. Furthermore, the first group made more trips abroad (42%, compared to 31%).

Aside from flights, renters are proportionally more likely than the other group to book several components of their trip (car rental, package, cruise, train, visit). This fact makes them more active travellers, who tend to do more (see Graph 2).

AL_Airbnb_1_anglais_graph_2The “New Generation of Renters” – a distinct category

Among the travellers who rented a private room, house or apartment during the past year, PhoCusWright has defined a new category of traveller that it calls “New Gen Renters.” Between 18 and 34, these travellers represent 31% of all renters and see themselves as avid users of new technology.

This group spends more on vacations and travels more frequently. In fact, a typical household in this category allocates an average of US$4,338 per year to travel, compared to US$3,743 for the other renters and US$3,153 for non-renters. Furthermore, 27% of these travellers have made at least six trips during the previous year, compared to 15% of the other renters and 9% of non-renters.

New Gen travel behaviour

Several aspects of New Gen travel behaviour distinguish this group from other travellers, such as:

  • They want to explore the destination as much as possible: meet new people and share their experiences with them;
  • They are spontaneous, travelling as soon as they have the means to do so;
  • When staying in commercial accommodation, they seek out stylish, smaller hotels;
  • They like to travel alone or with friends.

Preferred types of accommodation

New Gen Renters tend to spend less on accommodation than other renters, since they are more likely to stay in budget hotels, bed and breakfasts or rooms, or else rent a bed in a private home (see Graph 3).

Note that PhoCusWright distinguishes between two types of rental accommodation: the one where the customer rents the entire residence from which the owner is usually absent (see “private house or apartment rental,” below); and the one where the renter only has access to part of the residence, and where the owner is usually present during the rental period (see “room or bed in a private house or apartment,” below). The latter type can be found on websites such as Airbnb, but is completely absent from websites such as HomeAway, that specialize in the first type of rental accommodation.


Why choose a rental over hotel accommodation?

The three main deciding factors for all renters are that they can find similar facilities and equipment to those at home, that they have more space, and that the rental can accommodate more people (see Graph 4). However, New Gen Renters particularly like the fact that rentals provide more freedom and privacy than a hotel room, that they offer a more relaxed ambiance, and that they are generally less expensive.


How will hotel owners react?

Should hotel owners be alarmed at the prospect of losing part of their clientele to private accommodation? According to PhoCusWright, 82% of non-renters did not even consider the rental option for their trips during the previous 12 months. However, hotel operators would do well to adapt to these New Gen Renters because, although rentals may better meet their needs, they nevertheless use different types of accommodation when travelling.

A second analysis examines the online planning and booking habits of this New Generation, and looks at possible ways of resolving the concerns of the hotel industry.


Image à la une: © BY NC Melies The Bunny


- Quinby, Douglas and Marcello Gasdia. ShareThis! Private Accommodation & the Rise of the New Gen Renter. PhoCusWright, June 2014.

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