Airbnb Vs Alternative Booking Platforms | Pros & Cons for Owners
There is no denying that Airbnb has completely revolutionised the short-term let market. Through building a system based around community and trust, owners who would never have felt comfortable letting their property in the past now feel confident enough to do so.
Whilst Airbnb is a fantastic platform, it is certainly not the be-all and end-all of online travel agencies (OTAs). Branching out into other platforms like Booking.com, VRBO and TripAdvisor will undeniably lead to more bookings and a higher turnover for your property.
That said, there are always going to be pros and cons to these Airbnb alternatives. Below we compare in detail some of the other booking channels that you might want to consider running alongside Airbnb, or jump to the bottom for a summary of our key findings.
Booking.com vs Airbnb
- Fees – 10 – 25% depending on region, see calculator for an estimate. Either pay per booking or monthly invoicing available.
- More Info – See Booking.com FAQ.
|One of the world’s largest booking platforms with 6.6 million vacation rentals listed worldwide and 300-600 million monthly visitors to the website, so a huge potential market of guests (Whilst this is actually more than Airbnb, many users also go to Booking.com for other services. Furthermore, the site’s users are spread all over the globe, whereas Airbnb’s are concentrated in Europe & the USA).
|No review system or profile for guests, so potentially a higher risk of property mistreatment. Although you can set up guest requirements including age limits and requiring guests to have one prior Booking.com stay, house rules that guests have to agree to, charge a damage deposit and report guest misconduct in the event of damage, there are still fewer assurances than Airbnb.
|Free signup and no monthly subscription fees. Also, there are no fees for travellers which is a big incentive to book trips with Booking.com over alternatives e.g. Airbnb guests pay 8-12 % on average.
|High commission relative to other booking channels. However, this can be offset with higher prices and since travellers pay no fees, the end price for guests is similar to Airbnb. Payouts are also less frequent than Airbnb and take longer to arrive.
|Bookings are instantly confirmed without requiring manual approval. This also prevents guests from negotiating lower prices. Potentially more last minute bookings generated due to more flexible cancellation policies.
|The downside of instant booking is that hosts have less control over who stays than with Airbnb. However, these days the vast majority of hosts on Airbnb do use instant book. There are a lot of hotels on the platform which generally have more flexible cancellation policies. This means Booking.com listings also tend to adopt more flexible policies in order to be competitive.
|24/7 customer support via phone/email.
|No native insurance policy like Airbnb’s AirCover.
TripAdvisor vs Airbnb
- Fees – 3% paid on individual bookings.
- More Info – TripAdvisor Rentals FAQ.
|Free to sign up and list your home. Payouts are made 24 hours after guests check in.
|No native insurance policy like Airbnb’s AirCover.
|One of the largest travel sites with 120-210 million visitors per month. The vast majority of them come from European countries. Again, many of these visitors come to TripAdvisor for other services so it’s less targeted.
|TripAdvisor gets a lot of visitors, but as many of these are for other services it does not convert as well into bookings as on other booking channels.
|There are lots of different cancellation policies available to choose from, meaning hosts have more control over when a guest cancels.
|You cannot rent out private rooms, only whole spaces.
|Supports both instant book and requests, which gives a bit more control than Booking.com. Furthermore, in the event of damage, owners and guests can try to reach a resolution. If not, TripAdvisor will step in and review the evidence. If they side with the host, they can enforce a payment.
|Similarly to Booking.com, there are fewer assurances than Airbnb as there are no guest profile or verification features. Although, you can review guests if they book through TripAdvisor Rentals which acts as an incentive to behave respectfully.
|Low host fees of 3% – the same as Airbnb.
|Relatively high guest fees of 8-16% could translate to fewer bookings.
VRBO vs Airbnb
- Fees – Start at 8% for pay per booking model, their annual subscription model has now been retired for new listings
- More Info – See VRBO FAQ.
|Listings are marketed across the whole VRBO network, which includes Expedia. This large network features more than 2 million listings.
|Relatively high commission compared with Airbnb, and the alternative subscription model still charges 3% credit card fees. Again, this can be offset with higher prices.
|VRBO has a lot of the same assurance and guest vetting features as Airbnb. For example, hosts can review past guests and guests also have a profile, you can charge a damage deposit and set up house rules.
|VRBO has a lot of rural listings and is popular for longer trips. However, it might not be as good as Airbnb for urban areas or last minute bookings.
|Booking requests as well as optional instant book.
|Only entire properties, you cannot list private rooms. Could also be considered a pro as they have carved out a niche.
|Includes liability insurance for up to $1 million per year, per property. Find out more here.
|Less reach than the likes of Airbnb and Booking.com
Aside from the industry titans listed above, several more niche OTAs can be very effective in particular markets. Below we outline a couple that are relevant to the UK & Europe.
Sawday’s vs Airbnb
- Fees – Based on your peak weekly charges, the annual fee ranges from 539 +VAT to £1399 +VAT. Also a one time joining fee of £150 +VAT.
- More Info – Sawday’s Join Us.
|Sawday’s is a collection of unique, characterful spaces – less than 50% of applicants are accepted. This ‘cream of the crop’ business model attracts highly targeted guests looking for something out of the ordinary, often willing to pay a premium for it.
|The downside of this model is not all properties are suitable and there is a chance you will not be accepted. So if your property is nothing out of the ordinary, Sawday’s is likely not going to be suitable for you.
|May be a relatively small OTA, but this allows for a more personal relationship with owners and guests. Which translates into better support and assistance.
|Many owners are uncomfortable committing to a subscription model as they expose themselves to risk i.e. the property doesn’t get many bookings. It’s also a pretty high fee to pay upfront.
|The type of guests who book through Sawday’s are more likely to return to spaces they like, driving repeat bookings.
|No native insurance policy.
|A key advantage of having such unique properties is that Sawday’s spaces are regularly picked up by the press.
|No guest profile or review system. That said, Sawday’s attracts a certain type of guest who are less likely to mistreat properties.
|Sawday’s does not support online booking. This could be a bonus for some, as they have full control over payment, cancellation policies etc.
|Not supporting online booking means the owner needs to either take payments via bank transfer or through their own website, which means potentially more work/higher costs.
QuirkyAccom vs Airbnb
- Fees – 1 month free trial then there are 3 packages, Bronze – £100/year, Silver – £200/year, Gold – £300/year (may be higher/lower for especially small/large properties) Higher tier packages include more promotions, features etc.
- More Info – See owner sign up info.
|As the name suggests, QuirkyAccom lists quirky and unique spaces. This helps set them apart from large competitors like Airbnb and Booking.com. It’s also easier to get accepted than Sawday’s.
|Receives fewer visitors than Sawday’s and the marketing is not as good.
|A lot lower fees than Sawday’s and some other alternatives.
|Despite lower fees, the upfront cost of a subscription may put some off. However, the free trial is good for testing the waters.
|Like Sawday’s, QuirkyAccom does not support online booking, providing owners more control.
|The lack of an online booking engine can also mean more work and higher costs if you set up your own website.
|No guest profile or review system and no native insurance policy.
Key Differences Between Airbnb & Alternatives
The major difference between Airbnb and most other OTAs is the less effective guest vetting features. A lot of owners feel there is little assurance guests will treat their property with respect without this element, but what does the research say?
Well, according to Booking.com statistics, only 1 in 5000, or 0.02%, of bookings result in damage being caused to a property. They also note that this is more often than not accidental or unintentional, with guests usually happy to cover the cost.
In our experience, bad guests are bad guests – whichever booking channel they decide to use. Be it Airbnb or an alternative, some people will always mistreat properties. The unfortunate reality is the odd undesirable guest is a cost of doing business in the industry, so it’s important to factor this into your pricing and always make sure you are covered by your insurance should the worst happen.
Type of Guests
Further to the above point, our research has shown hosts who list on multiple OTAs notice little to no difference in how guests treat the property. However, what they do note is a difference in the type of guests and their expectations.
For example, Airbnb guests tend to expect hosts to be more sociable. Whilst those coming through Booking.com sometimes expect more hotel-like services, given this platform is mostly made up of hotels. HomeAway & Sawday’s guests are often older and more family-oriented, usually yielding higher rates.
Whilst these differences are unlikely to be deciding factors when choosing a platform, they certainly highlight the importance of an accurate listing description.
The commission does vary quite significantly across platforms, but this is easily offset by higher prices on the platform in question. Therefore, we do not see this as a major reason not to use a specific OTA.
The final major factor that is likely to affect the success of your property on any given OTA is its location. For example, if most of a platform’s users are from Europe and your listing is in Europe, you are more likely to see an increase in bookings using this platform when compared with one where most of the users are from a different region.
There are also more localised factors at play. For example, if your property is the only house or apartment in your area on Booking.com and the rest are hotels, you are likely to receive relatively more interest due to standing out against the competition.
So what’s the best Airbnb alternative? In truth, there isn’t one. What’s right for you comes down to your objectives and in our view, no platform compares to Airbnb. If you want to make the most money out of your property, consider listing on other platforms but once you reach a certain amount adding additional platforms is unlikely to continue improving performance. However, if you are risk-averse, list only OTAs with good guest vetting features.