Who came out looking bad here? Nick Gerli and AllTheRooms, in particular, as well as the media that took him at his word about the source of the data.
This is a story about how questionable data about plunging Airbnb host revenue took on a life of its own, leading to a slew of news articles and social media posts, investor concerns, and one CNBC interview.
Nick Gerli, the CEO of Reventure Consulting, tweeted June 27 about the alleged “Airbnb Revenue Collapse,” citing AllTheRooms as the “source” of his data. It showed alarming year over year drops in revenue per available listing in May in several metro areas, including 47.6% in the Sevierville, Tennessee, 47.2% in Phoenix, and 46.1% in Austin, Texas.
The tweet shook the short-term rental industry and attracted more than 35 million views on Twitter alone.
The chart Gerli posted and subsequent statements he made claimed that AllTheRooms was the “source” of the data. “The data used in this Tweet thread came from AllTheRooms,” Gerli tweeted.
However, Gerli told Skift in an email Saturday that he took county data that AllTheRooms sent him, and went a step further on his own.
“AllTheRooms sent me a spreadsheet with revenue, listing, and RevPAL data for every county in America going back to 2015,” Gerli said. “I then grouped the counties into metro areas, and created the table you saw in the Tweet to show the rolling YoY change in RevPAL.”
AllTheRooms, meanwhile, has not spoken publicly about the data and has not engaged with journalists and others seeking to confirm or deny the data.
AllTheRooms CEO Joseph DiTomaso did not respond to a Skift email seeking comment.
“Our dataset shows declines in many of the markets that were cited in the original tweet,” said Melanie Brown, executive director of data insights at Key Data. “However, the declines are not nearly as dramatic as what was shown.”
Brown added that she made presentations about short-term rental market trends to three investor groups last week, “and they’ve all asked about the AllTheRooms data.”
Other analysis indicates a more modest decline in Airbnb host revenue. “U.S. RevPAR fell 3.3% to $89 in the first half of the year, ADR was down 2.3% to $260, while occupancy was down a single percentage point at 34%,” said a Key Data blog post July 10.
While Gerli found RevPal down 47.2% year-over year in May in the Phoenix metro area, STR Insights found it to have dipped just 2.5%. The same pattern was true for Myrtle Beach, South Carolina — 45.1% for Reventure versus 4.8% for STR Insights.
Source: STR Insights
While Gerli had RevPAL in the New Orleans metro area down 37.1%, AirDNA pegged the decline at 1.2%.
“Let’s get some facts straight,” tweeted Jamie Lane, chief economist at AirDNA regarding Gerli’s estimates. “There is not a collapse in RevPAL happening. Is it down in 2023? YES. Is it down 40%? NO. I’ve pulled the numbers from @airdna‘s dataset mirroring the analysis done by @nickgerli1. What do we find? The average market listed is seeing RevPAL decrease of -3.6%, not -40.3%.”
The controversy prompted Airbnb to issue a statement: “The data is not consistent with our own data. As we said during our Q1 earnings, more guests are traveling on Airbnb than ever before, with Nights and Experiences Booked growing 19% in Q1 2023 compared to a year ago.”
Many misinterpreted Gerli’s tweet as saying that Airbnb was collapsing, but instead he was pointing to — erroneously, as it turns out — a massive drop in revenue for some hosts, not necessarily for Airbnb as a company.
AllTheRooms, which was founded as a vacation rental comparison shopping site a decade ago, emerges from this episode looking tarnished in part because of its total silence.
“As of today AllTheRooms has not gotten back to me regarding my questions about the big differences between their data and AirDNA’s,” Gerli said Saturday. “In the meantime, I’ve reached out to Airbnb several times and requested they provide their own data to settle the difference. And have yet to hear back from them.”
There are few standards for how the various data vendors in the short-term rental space scrape, import, or calculate their metrics. One vendor notes, for example, that its system may view unavailable nights as being booked stays.
For his part, Gerli has said that he’s reviewing the discrepancies in the various vendors’ data, and may publish more data soon. He hasn’t retracted his tweet.
Asked if he made mistakes in taking AllTheRooms county data and analyzing it to come up with RevPal drops in metropolitan areas, Gerli said: “I didn’t err. Triple-checked my work.”
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Photo credit: An Airbnb in Rincon, Puerto Rico. Airbnb