Analysis - November 12, 2014



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November 2014


Print Accommodation, etourism and technology,

Online Behaviour of Airbnb Travellers

The more often travellers stay in private accommodation, the less likely they are to book a hotel room during the same year, according to a significant study by PhoCusWright.

The private accommodation rental market has not escaped the tidal wave of online information that brings us to today’s diversified offer on a number of specialized sites. The PhoCusWright study states that, in the United States, the penetration rate of these online reservations has gone from 12% in 2008 to 24% in 2012. The arrival of start-ups in the collaborative economy, such as Airbnb, and the improvement of already well-established sites in this market, such as HomeAway, have helped accelerate this trend.

This trend gave rise to a new generation of renters, or “New Gen Renters,” whose travel behaviour differs from that of travellers who use other types of accommodation. This distinction was made following an analysis of these travellers, that was based on a PhoCusWright study of their online planning and booking habits. The results of that study are described below.


New Gen Renters very active online

When planning their leisure trips, New Gen Renters are more likely to search the Web on a mobile device (32%) or a tablet (29%) than other renters (see Graph No. 1). They also more frequently use other sources of information, such as recommendations from relatives and friends, online advertising and promotional emails. The behaviour of other renters more closely resembles that of other travellers who do not rent private accommodation.


New Gen Renters browse more sites to compare and choose the various components of their trip

All three categories of traveller primarily access the same sources for their online trip planning (see Graph No. 2). Online travel agencies such as Expedia or Priceline came first, followed by search engines and comment sites such as TripAdvisor. However, New Gen Renters browse more sites to compare and choose the various components of their trip. Almost 40% of these new renters use social media, compared to 11% of other renters and 12% of non-renters. This gap also holds true for travel guide sites and online magazines, news websites and private accommodation rental websites – although the latter category is also accessed by a significant proportion (20%) of other renters.


What online content are they looking for?

New Gen Renters have a strong appetite for online travel content (se       e Graph No. 3). They access comments and opinions, professional and amateur photos and videos, and supplier posts to plan at least half of their stays. They are far more likely than other renters and non-renters to view this information on social media.


Inspiration and personalization

The inspirational aspect of the site is very important for this new generation. Indeed, 41% of them look for new trip ideas online, whereas this objective is only shared by 28% of other renters and 29% of non-renters. This group is also looking for a more personalized web browsing experience than the other traveller groups, with 27% preferring a site that saves their personal information in order to recognize them on subsequent visits, compared with 12% of other renters and 9% of non-renters.

New Gen Renters are spontaneous

The “other renters” category books its stays further in advance than other segments: 57% do so at least one month before departure, whereas only 41% of New Gen Renters and half of non-renters adopt similar behaviour (see Graph No. 4). In fact, there are proportionally more last-minute New Gen travellers, as 43% of them book less than three weeks before their trip is due to start, compared to 33% of other renters and 31% of non-renters.


Keen collaborative consumers

According to PhoCusWright, New Gen Renters tend to use collaborative sites such as Airbnb to book their accommodation. This segment is also attracted by a similar approach to getting around: 21% of these avid users of new technology used a car-sharing app during their stay, compared to a fairly low percentage (6%) of other renters, and only 2% of non-renters. They are also more likely (25% compared to 11% and 6%, respectively) to have used app-based rideshare services such as Uber and Sidecar.

Should the traditional hotel market be concerned?

According to PhoCusWright’s probability calculations based on the frequency of travellers’ leisure trips, it seems that each time a traveller rents private accommodation, the chances he or she will book a hotel room within the same year drop by 24%. Similarly, if a traveller stays in two rentals over the course of the year, the chances he or she will stay in a hotel drop by 50%. In other words, the more often travellers stay in private accommodation, the less likely they are to book a hotel room. While this statement may alarm hotel owners, they should remember that, in 2013, only 14% of U.S. travellers rented a private house or apartment, and only 3% booked a room or a bed in a private home. In fact, it was the least popular type of accommodation.

Fundamental shift or passing trend?

Will the advocates of collaborative consumption – largely members of Generation Y – continue to travel this way as they grow older? It is difficult to predict the future, but one thing is certain: their use of the Internet and an array of technological tools is permanently rooted in their travel behaviour. Accommodation providers therefore have no choice but to react – and adapt to! – this enduring trend!


Image à la une: © istockphoto


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

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