Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Short-Term Rentals

Airbnb Increases Efforts to Boost Short-Term Rentals in Multifamily Buildings

1 week ago

Building on initiatives that had mixed results in the past, Airbnb is debuting an Airbnb-Friendly Apartments program to enable long-term renters in multifamily buildings where landlords permit it to list their rooms or apartments on Airbnb.

Sentral Wynwood in Miami participated in Airbnb’s new Airbnb-Friendly Apartments Program. Source: Airbnb

For both guests and hosts, one of the things the program aims to do is avoid the all-too-frequent situation where guests have to pretend they are part of the host’s visiting family or a close friend because the building doesn’t allow Airbnb rentals.

The newest incarnation of the program enables long-term renters to browse for multifamily buildings that allow Airbnb short-term rentals, get in touch with the management of the building, and, like other first-time hosts, get access to experienced hosts to help with starting out on Airbnb and listing their apartments.

“Renters interested in hosting a spare room, or their entire apartment when they’re out of town, can browse more than 175 Airbnb-friendly apartment buildings, subject to availability, in 25+ markets across the U.S., including Houston, Phoenix, and Jacksonville,” Airbnb stated as part of the announcement.

The company added that renters participating in this multifamily building program over three months hosted an average of nine nights per month and earned an average of $900 net of Airbnb and landlord fees.

Airbnb has had issues with some of these sorts of arrangements in the past. Several years ago, for example, Airbnb enabled a Miami-area developer, Niido, to use the Airbnb brand and enable tenants to host short-term rental guests, but other tenants felt blindsided by the arrangement, and Airbnb eventually sued the developer.

Short-Term Rentals

Oman Tourism Opens the Way for Approved Short-Term Rentals

3 weeks ago

UnderTheDoormat Group CEO Merilee Karr said her company’s new technology and distribution agreement with Visit Oman can be a novel approach to short-term regulation — one where technology can spur governments to embrace the sector rather than shun it.

UnderTheDoormat CEO Merilee Karr and Shabib Al Maamari, managing director, Visit Oman, signed a a short-term rental distribution partnership last month at the Omani Ministry of Heritage and Tourism in Muscat, Oman. Source: Oman Ministry of Heritage and Tourism

Through an agreement signed last month in Muscat, Oman, government-approved property listings delivered through the UK’s UnderTheDoormat Group’s Hospira property management and distribution platform were live in November in time for the World Cup in Qatar.

Oman already offered had short-term rentals through hotel licenses and from a variety of players on big global platforms such as Airbnb and Booking.com.

But Karr said the tech partnership breaks new ground, officially opens the market, and provides Oman with the transparency it sought about an otherwise-fragmented sector.

Property developers, hospitality companies, small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs), and eventually individually owned short-term rentals that are licensed can connect their properties through Hospira to access the market, and the major global platforms, she said.

The Visit Oman-UnderTheDoormat Group pact is exclusive, Karr said.

Like others in the Middle East, Oman is trying to develop a more diversified tourism economy.

“Through the Visit Oman gateway, the Hospiria platform will provide an efficient launching point for Omani companies, SMEs, and property owners to place their apartments, villas and homes onto the short-term rental market globally,” said Sahib Al Mamari, managing director of Visit Oman, as part of the announcement. “This latest Visit Oman initiative with UnderTheDoormat falls in line with the broader, existing Oman Tourism Vision 2040 strategy, and serves to shift the Sultanate of Oman towards a more diversified and developed tourism economy, and one that leverages digital innovation and technology to maximize value for the Omani tourism market, as well as the tourism-related SME economy in Oman.”

Overtourism

Airbnb Data Says Flexible Search Tools Help Combat Overtourism

1 month ago

Airbnb said that the flexible search features it has rolled out since early 2021 have so far diverted bookings from destinations coping with overtourism and peak travel times, according to data it shared on Friday.

The short-term rental booking giant has increasingly offered search tools — see Skift’s earlier coverage: “Airbnb’s Next Big Change: Search” — in response to evidence that many people don’t have a destination or fixed dates in mind when they start researching trips.

Some of Airbnb’s new data points from its first whitepaper on “sustainable tourism” (embedded below).

  • “In 2019, the top 10 most visited cities on Airbnb in the European Union — including Paris, Barcelona, and Rome — accounted for 20 percent of all trips in Europe, whereas they account for just 14 percent of trips in 2022.”
  • “Guests using flexible search tools book less often in the 20 most popular destinations on Airbnb in Europe (-17.5 percent) and more often in less-visited communities ranked outside Airbnb’s top 400 destinations (+35.5 percent), when compared to guests booking via traditional search on Airbnb.”
  • “Guests booking via Airbnb’s flexible search tool—that provides an option to include a location without dates—are also more likely to book outside the top 10% most popular dates (-7.3 percent) and are more likely to book nights on weekdays (+5.7 percent).”
  • “Flexible search is also helping to redirect guests approximately 5 miles farther away from their initial intended location within cities, compared to traditional searchers on Airbnb … In Amsterdam, flexible bookers more often stay outside the city’s inner limits (+32.5 percent) compared to traditional bookers.”

As context: Airbnb’s search changes had two components.

People who don’t have a destination in mind can now be inspired by Airbnb’s new “Categories” category, which has been viewed more than 120 million times since August, according to company statements. This tool helps divert reservations away from Europe’s most saturated hotspots, according to Nathan Blecharczyk, Airbnb co-founder and chief strategy officer, when discussing the report at Web Summit in Lisbon on Thursday.

Travelers with flexible dates have been able to take advantage of Airbnb’s recently added feature that lets them say they’re really interested in traveling anywhere for a week and a week or a month anytime in the next year. The tool lets some travelers avoid peak time crushes in travel because of seasonality.

The report’s data points echos comments Co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky made at Skift Global Forum in September.

“What we want to do now is we want to be more in the inspiration business,” Chesky said. “You come to Airbnb and we can point demand to where we have supply. … We can highlight what makes us unique and get into the top of the purchasing funnel, which is basically giving people ideas of where to travel based on what’s available.”

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky (see full video)

Airbnb has been attempting to cope with the overtourism ever since 2018, when it created an “office of healthy tourism,” which at the time was the company’s term for proper tourism growth management. It began adding flexible search tools in early 2021, as Skift reported.

Skift coined the term overtourism to describe “a potential hazard to popular destinations worldwide, as the dynamic forces that power tourism often inflict unavoidable negative consequences if not managed well.”

See Airbnb’s sustainable tourism report, below:

Online Travel

Airbnb Has Begun to Partly Break Out Its Spending on Brand Marketing

1 month ago

Airbnb executives have talked a lot about how they have reduced their spending on performance marketing (think: buying ads in Google search results) to focus on brand marketing (think: subway posters advertising the company’s new “OMG” category of properties). So how much do they spend on brand and how much on performance?

The short answer is we don’t know for sure. In its first year after going public in December 2020, the short-term rental giant didn’t break out its brand marketing as a share of sales and marketing expenses in its financial results.

This year, though, it began to provide a touch more color, though not enough detail for a full picture.

The company doesn’t disclose how much it spends on performance marketing. Yet it has begun disclosing its year-over-year increases in search engine marketing and advertising spending. In the first nine months of the year, its search engine marketing and advertising expenditure rose by $76.9 million year-over-year. Sadly we don’t know what the total amount of performance marketing was in 2021 to compare it with.

What we can see for sure is that the bump in performance marketing represented a comparatively smaller increase than the company’s increased expenditure on brand marketing. We know that the company increased its brand campaign spending and that the increase was two-and-a-half times as much as the increase of its performance marketing.

In the first nine months this year, the company spent $771.9 million on “brand and performance marketing,” according to financial filings published on Thursday. Of that, $202 million, or 26 percent, represented increased spending on specific brand marketing campaigns.

Sadly, we don’t know the company’s total spending on brand marketing.

But we know the increased spending was meant to support campaigns including its “OMG” category of properties. Since the category’s introduction, the OMG listings have been viewed more than 300 million views, the company claimed this week.

Brand marketing is critical to the company’s ability to continue to attract guests and hosts through direct and unpaid channels, which executives say are cheaper than advertising on Google, Facebook, and other channels.

The company’s other “sales and marketing” costs included personnel-related expenses for its communications teams and for “policy,” which cost a separate $335.7 million in the first nine months of the year — representing a 3 percent increase year-over-year.

Added up, the company spent about $1.1 billion on “sales and marketing” in the first nine months of this year. That was about 17 percent of revenue, far lower than what traditional online travel agencies spend, as Skift has analyzed before.

Boosting Incentive Payments to Customers?

An unspecified amount of Airbnb’s other sales and marketing money was used for referral incentives and coupons. The company has for years made payments to customers via referral programs. Airbnb typically offers a coupon credit for a future booking after a person refers someone to the online agency and that new customer completes their first stay.

The company doesn’t spell out how much it spends on these incentive programs. It appears to mostly lump the amount along with refunds it offers to customers upset with something going wrong in their Airbnb experience.

Intriguingly, the total number of customer payouts for incentives and refunds has increased this year. In the comparable third quarters in 2020 and 2021, Airbnb kept these sums at about $85 million. But in the third quarter of 2022, the total number of incentive payments and refunds rose to $152 million. That was 78 percent more.

Have refunds gone up as the pandemic has ended? Perhaps. But it’s also possible that the company instead increased its referral and related marketing programs, such as where it offers coupons. The company hasn’t broken out the details.

Energy Credits for Hosts in Britain?

On Thursday, the company debuted another type of brand-boosting program. In the UK, Airbnb debuted a sustainable hosting fund worth about $1.1 million (£1 million) to help property managers who want to make their lodging more energy efficient.

Many hosts are struggling to cope with spiking energy costs in the UK because Russia is disrupting energy supplies to Europe during its war on Ukraine.

Airbnb will make grants to hosts of about $3,300 (£3,000). Qualifying actions include switching to a more energy-efficient boiler or heat pump and insulating a roof. Details are at the company’s sustainability fund site.

Overall, Airbnb appears to have found alternatives to paid performance marketing to be more cost-effective. For more context, watch Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky explain the company’s strategy in this video from Skift Global Forum 2022.

Business Travel

Airbnb to Help Mexico City Lure Digital Nomads With Marketing Site

1 month ago

Mexico City’s mayor has signed a deal with Airbnb to help encourage more digital nomads — people working online remotely — to work in the capital city with the help of a new informational website.

Airbnb said on Wednesday it had created a site to “showcase unique cultural and creative destinations and experiences” in Mexico’s capital city. The so-called “remote working hub” shows examples of extended-stay rentals, entry requirements, and visa policies. It also highlights experiences led and sold by locals that remote workers could take part in to understand the city better.

Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum’s and Airbnb’s promotional effort is also supported by UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency.

“Mexican entrepreneurs will participate in UNESCO-led training to develop authentic cultural experiences that represent Mexico City’s unique, cultural and creative traditions across many diverse neighborhoods,” according to an Airbnb statement.

Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said in a press conference that the impact on local renters should be minimal, Reuters reported.

“Most digital nomads choose to stay in expensive neighborhoods, where the rent is already higher than other areas of the capital, such as Condesa, Roma, and Polanco,” Sheinbaum said, according to Reuters.

For more on this topic, see Skift’s Future of Work Briefing.

Short-Term Rentals

Pets Are Now Living on Airbnb

2 months ago

Toss out all the cliches about the woes of “a dog’s life” because many dogs — and cats and other domesticated animals — are now living on Airbnb.

That’s because during the first six months of 2022, around 25 percent of the nights booked that included a pet were for stays lasting 28 days or longer, Airbnb stated Tuesday.

Many of the pets’ human owners, whether they are working, visiting or living in an Airbnb since Covid-19 upended previous job and other rituals of life, were likewise attaching themselves to long-term stays.

Cats in a Poynings, UK Airbnb
Cats in a Poynings, UK Airbnb in 2018. Source: Kent Wang/Flickr

“Guests continue to stay longer in Airbnb,” CEO Brian Chesky told financial analysts in August. “They’re not just traveling Airbnb, they’re now living on Airbnb. We saw long-term stays of 28 days or more remain our fastest-growing category [during the second quarter] by trip nights compared to 2019. The long-term stays has increased nearly 25 percent from a year ago. And actually, long-term stays have increased almost 90 percent since Q2 2019.”

In addition, Airbnb said today more than 3 million pets stayed in Airbnb’s since November — whether overnights, weekends getaways or longer stays.

Airbnb hosts can decide whether they want to allow visits including pets, and they can set fees for these add-ons.

These statistics Airbnb touted about pet travel presumably are increases from prior periods, although an Airbnb spokesperson said she didn’t have additional data to provide.

Airbnb tied the pet travel to its implementation of host insurance coverage for pet damages in 2021.

Although many pets are now living on Airbnb coming out of the pandemic, they are probably not living like the locals very much. Nor is it clear they want to.

Online Travel

Airbnb.org, Expedia Group Aid Hurricane Relief Efforts

2 months ago

Airbnb.org and Expedia Group are providing support to people displaced by Hurricanes Fiona and Ian.

Airbnb.org, a nonprofit that says it operates independently from Airbnb, announced that it has committed $5 million to provide free housing on a temporary basis to people displaced by Hurricane Fiona in the Caribbean and Hurricane Ian on the U.S. mainland.

More than two weeks after Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico, parts of the island remained without electricity. Pictured is a Rincón, Puerto Rico street on October 2, 2022. Source: Dennis Schaal/Skift

“These stays will be funded by Airbnb and other donors to Airbnb.org,” the group said.

In the U.S. mainland, for example, Airbnb.org said it is collaborating with Global Empowerment Mission and local and state authorities to identify hurricane victims who need housing.

In Puerto Rico, Airbnb.org is working with local organizations that can utilize its grants to house first responders, the organization said.

Meanwhile, Expedia Group donated an unspecified amount of money to Volunteer Florida to help communities that were in Hurricane Ian’s path, an Expedia Group spokesperson said. Part of that effort includes Expedia’s working with Visit Florida to help people find housing.

As it has done in past disasters, Expedia launched an emergency accommodations portal to help people locate available hotels in Florida, for instance.

Short-Term Rentals

Awaze Put Up For Sale at $2 Billion by Private Equity Owner Platinum — Report

2 months ago

The owner of European vacation-rentals business Awaze is looking for a sale, according to a media report.

U.S. private equity firm Platinum Equity created Awaze after buying a selection of rental businesses from Wyndham Worldwide in 2018. The deal was worth $1.3 billion, and its collection at the time included Novasol, Cottages.com, James Villa Holidays and Landal GreenParks.

Now Sky News has reported that Platinum Equity has appointed Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to oversee a strategic review of Awaze — with a price tag of up to $2.14 billion. A sale is being sought within the next 12 months. However, in June another report suggested a sale could take place by the end of this year.

Awaze itself has been buying up other players. In 2021 it bought Bornholmtours, Amberley House and Portscatho Holidays, Quality Cottages and Quality Unearthed.

Awaze CEO Henrik Kjellberg said bookings were “holding up well over winter both in terms of volume and price,” in a Financial Times report on Monday. “Even in the event of a recession, I expect the travel industry will still perform well”.

With Airbnb among the potential suitors for the Wyndham rental brands back in 2017, could it now return to the table as the short-term rental market recovers afters the pandemic?

Short-Term Rentals

Airbnb to Kickstart Experiences After 2-Year Pause

3 months ago

Airbnb mothballed its experiences business — and ceased investing in hotels — at the beginning of the pandemic, but CEO Brian Chesky said earlier this week that Airbnb will begin to invest in its experiences business again in 2023 after a two-year pause.

A file photo of an Airbnb host greeting participants in a bread-baking experience. Source: Airbnb

“It’s ready to invest like significantly in this business again,” he said.

Trotting out another e-commerce buzzword after discussing funnels, namely “flywheels,” Chesky argued that Airbnb’s homes and experiences businesses would invigorate each other.

“We have some really exciting things in the roadmap,” Chesky said, including for 2023. “And I think that experience is a great flywheel for homes because, again, the number one thing in travel is you want to have direct traffic, booking something unique that you can’t find anywhere else.”

Booking.com: Attractions Won’t Be a ‘Huge Money Spinner’

Booking Holdings Chief Financial Officer David Goulden, speaking at an Evercore technology conference September 8, noted that the company transitioned from a “homegrown acquisition strategy” for tours and activities — when it acquired Fareharbor in 2018 — to a partnerships model, such as through deals with TUI Musement and Viator.

He added that the market size and transaction values for attractions are not as substantial as for accommodations or flights.

“So I don’t think it will be a huge money spinner for us, but it’s certainly something that will create, I think, a lot of value for our customers, therefore, something we want to continue to focus on,” Goulden said.

Online Travel

Airbnb Deploys Translation Engine to Let Guests See Reviews in 60 Languages

3 months ago

Airbnb has just announced the expansion of its automatic translation service, Translation Engine, to reviews of rentals and hosts.

First introduced in Airbnb’s 2021 “Winter Release,” Translation Engine provides both hosts and guests with automatic message translations in over 60 languages.

The company signed a deal with Translated in 2021, the largest deal in the history of translation services. Using ModernMT, the proprietary technology of Translated, has significantly improved the quality of communication for listings, according to a 2021 review by Slator.

Airbnb now plans to extend the service to its reviews, allowing users to access reviews without first needing to manually translate the text. And with over 550 million reviews, they hope to make the information more easily accessible for users.

The goal of the technology is to bring hosts and guests closer together, with the goal of making exchanges more accurate and efficient for both parties.

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