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Airbnb Needs to Watch Out for Booking.com’s Apartment Ambitions

Skift Take

Booking.com wants to answer the needs of “one customer,” the one who books an apartment one day and a five-star hotel the next. Yes, a revolution in lodging is under way and Booking.com is now shouting about it.

— Dennis Schaal

Booking.com has long offered apartment or condo hotels in addition to traditional hotels but it has recently been scaling up its apartment and homestay offerings and has begun to shout about it.

Whether this is part of A/B testing or something more permanent is unclear but a quick perusal of Booking.com shows a ton of new and prominent messaging about Booking.com’s apartments’ choices.

While Airbnb has been seeking to round its own offering with vacation rentals, including those from professionally managed properties, the Priceline Group’s Booking.com can tout a much more wider array of lodging types in its 1.8 million listings of hotels, vacation rentals, apartments, homestays, guest houses, bed & breakfasts, hostels, and boats. Airbnb, on the other hand, claims 1.5 million listings, although you won’t find any Marriott or InterContinental Hotel Group properties there.

Of course, consumers aren’t used to visiting Booking.com for apartment stays but that will change soon as Booking.com has been shedding its previous reticence on the topic and is touting “apartments in Paris” in large type on a version of its homepage, “Select your apartment” booking buttons, apartment and homestay filters to narrow searches, and a “homes and apartments” homepage tab that links to Booking.com’s Villas.com site.

The following screenshot boldly invites users to “Search apartments in Paris,” replete with a Best Price Guaranteed pledge.

Bookingcom apartments smaller

A Homes & Apartments tab on the Booking.com homepage links to Villas.com, which is dedicated to vacation rentals and apartments for people who don’t necessarily want to consider hotels. Booking.com now also calls out “apartments” in its property tallies.

booking homes apartments

Depending on the destination and availability, Booking.com displays “apartments” and “homestays” filters. In this Paris, France, example below, the apartments filter gets a bright green color when selected, and a “Select your apartment” booking button is shown in blue. The button previously was “Select your room” for all inventory types, including hotels and apartments. For hotel bookings, the buttons still say “Select your room.”

Select your apartment button and filter
Booking select your apartment

Booking.com’s apartment listings in New York City get its typical marketing messaging for hotels: “It’s likely that these apartments will be sold out within the next six hours.”

booking apartments will be sold out

Two years ago, then Priceline Group CEO Jeffery Boyd and current CEO Darren Huston told me that the company would go slow on Airbnb-style rentals because, as a public company, they needed to be certain that all of the regulatory issues in apartment stays would be worked out.

But there has been a sea change in the attitudes of online travel companies, including HomeAway, TripAdvisor and, well, Booking.com, and it has been driven by both consumer demand and increased availability of homestay and apartment rental supply.

Booking.com intends to still shy away from dodgy apartment rentals that run afoul of local regulations but it is definitely on-boarding “instantly bookable and confirmable accommodations in all categories,” a says Priceline Group spokesperson Leslie Cafferty.

“As more non-hotel properties look to get into this space and list on sites like Booking, the easier it has become for us to add this inventory,” Cafferty says. “So I think any recent ‘acceleration’ on this front is really due to increasing consumer demand, increasing non-hotel supplier interest in listing in more places than Airbnb (and in particular for those interested in renting without ‘hosting’) and our ability to move quickly here as we grow global sales forces and have pretty much max’d out the big hotels.”

“So really not a concerted shift in mindset,” she adds. “I think it was always something we have done, but some factors have really propelled our growth here in the last two years.”

Booking.com wants to answer the needs of “one customer,” the one who books an apartment one day and a five-star hotel the next.

Yes, a revolution in lodging is under way and Booking.com is now shouting about it.

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