Skift Travel News Blog

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

Short-Term Rentals

Airbnb Warns a Puerto Rico Bill Would Essentially Ban Short-Term Rentals

1 week ago

Pending legislation in Puerto Rico would limit the use of short-term rentals in residential areas to 30 percent of the property, a move that an Airbnb official characterized as a “defacto prohibition.”

An Airbnb in Rincón, Puerto Rico. Source: Dennis Schaal/Skift

“Thousands of properties in Puerto Rico could be deleted or eliminated, which provide this service, which welcome millions of visitors to Puerto Rico, who have been part of the success of Puerto Rican tourism,” Carlos Muñoz , Airbnb’s director of public policy and communications for Central America and the Caribbean told Elnuevodia.com.

House bill 1557, which was introduced in November, would require hosts who seek to use more than 30 percent of their space for short-term rentals to apply for a permit to change the designated use from residential to commercial.

The legislation is geared to thwart short-term rentals’ sometimes-disruptive impact on neighborhoods, including house parties, affordable housing shortages, and escalating rents.

Muñoz claimed that Airbnb’s footprint in Puerto Rico represented about 1 percent of the housing stock, the story said. However, short-term rentals made up more than half the available housing in cities such as San Juan, Cataño and Aguadilla, and around one-third in other popular tourism areas in 2022, according to Abexus Analytics, the story said.

Airbnb was a key factor in driving Puerto Rico’s tourism recovery.

However, the Center for a New Economy recently conducted a study on the impact of short-term rentals in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. The study found that a 10 percent increase in short-term rental density in relation to the total number of housing units, led to a 7 percent increase in median rents and a 23 percent jump in housing unit prices.

Travel Technology

Dubai-Based Silkhaus Raises $7.7 Million Seed Funding to Digitize Short-Term Rentals

3 months ago

Silkhaus, a United Arab Emirates-based platform for short-term rentals, announced on Tuesday that it has raised $7.75 million in a seed funding round.

Following this investment, Silkhaus has said it will accelerate its expansion across Middle East and North Africa region, as well as in South Asia and Southeast Asia. The company had earlier identified a $13 billion target market in these regions.

Having raised its seed round, the company said in statement that it would will focus on growing global supply on its platform. Silkhaus anticipates its market opportunity to grow to $18 billion by 2026, across Middle East and North Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia. 

Investors joining this round included Dubai-based Nuwa Capital, London-based Nordstar Partners, Berlin’s Global Founders Capital, Singapore-based Yuj Ventures, India’s Whiteboard Capital, and VentureSouq from Dubai.

Highlighting the global rise of short-term rentals, Aahan Bhojani, CEO and founder of Silkhaus, noted that the management of such properties is highly fragmented and largely offline as property owners lack the technology and know-how to deliver a world-class and standardised experience.

“We are building the operating system for property owners — large or small — to operate high quality short-term rentals,” Bhojani said.

Skift had earlier in an article highlighted how the tourism boom in the United Arab Emirates has allowed short-term rentals to thrive.

The Dubai-based company calls itself a platform that builds cutting-edge technology to provide asset owners with tools to monetise and manage their properties as short-term rentals.

Coming out of stealth mode, Silkhaus, founded in 2021, claims to have grown over 10 times through the past 12 months.

The company has said that it will grow the supply of properties on its platform, with a focus on hiring extensively for technology and strategic roles.

Overtourism

Airbnb Data Says Flexible Search Tools Help Combat Overtourism

3 months 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

Veteran Vrbo Exec Jeff Hurst Is Leaving as Expedia Poaches Another Googler

3 months ago

Longtime Vrbo executive Jeff Hurst, who was chief operating officer of Expedia brands and formerly Vrbo’s president, is leaving the company.

Jeff Hurst, a former Vrbo president, at an Expedia Group conference in Las Vegas in 2019. Source: Expedia Group.

This follows the exit in September of John Kim, who was president of Expedia Marketplace, and last month became executive vice president and chief product officer at PayPal.

Expedia Group announced earlier this week that Brad Bentley, most previously president and CEO of clean energy company Inspire, would become chief operating officer of Expedia brands, taking Hurst’s role.

Hurst had been with Expedia/Vrbo and predecessor company HomeAway since 2010.

Kim has worked at Expedia/HomeAway since 2011.

Following Expedia Group hiring former Google travel advertising director Rob Torres in April, Expedia stated this week that it hired Tript Singh Lamba, most previously head of head of product for YouTube ad monetization and personalization at Google, as senior vice president of consumer product for Expedia product & technology.

Bentley will report to Jon Gieselman, president, Expedia Brands, including Expedia, Vrbo and Hotels.com. Lamba will report to Rathi Murthy, Expedia Group’s chief technology officer and president, Expedia product & technology.

“Building long-lasting direct traveler relationships and operating more effectively with our capital allocation are core components of our B2C strategy,” Giselman said in the announcement statement. “It is critical to have a leader that understands all the complicated investment tradeoffs between customer acquisition, engagement, and retention, and can apply that experience to our planning, operating model, and daily operations. Brad’s substantial operational experience with direct-to-consumer products puts our Brands division in a position to thrive even more.”

Expedia didn’t announce a reason for Hurst’s departure, and a spokesperson characterized it as merely a leadership change after Hurst’s more than 10 years of accomplishments at Expedia and HomeAway.

Hurst didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Online Travel

Hopper Partners With Vacation Rental Management Platform Hostaway

4 months ago

Online travel agency Hopper has entered into a partnership with short-term rental management platform Hostaway, an alliance that Hopper believes will boost its short-term rental brand Hopper Homes.

“Partnering with Hostaway allows us to bolster our high-quality inventory, and helps us deliver on our promise to provide the best booking options at the best prices,” said Susan Ho, head of Hopper Homes, which Hopper launched in January 2022.

Short-term rental property managers using Hostaway will be now able to list their properties on Hopper.

“We work with many property managers in the U.S., which is Hopper’s main market, so it benefits both companies to team up on this integration,” said Marcus Rader, the CEO and co-founder of Hostaway. “We’re excited about the possibilities this will bring to our customers.”

Hopper, which is the third largest online agency travel agency flight booker in the U.S. between behind Expedia Group and CheapOAir, is already partnering with vacation rental booking brand Vrbo.

The inside of a house
Hopper is making further inroads in the short-term rental market through its partnership with Hostaway (Courtesy: Medeu71/pxHere)

Startups

Guesty Buys YieldPlanet as Startups Serving Short-Term Rentals and Hotels  Consolidate

5 months ago

Guesty has acquired Yield Planet, a hotel-focused revenue and distribution management platform.

The companies didn’t disclose the deal terms.

Guesty’s software helps property managers operate and market their short-term rentals for travelers. In August, the U.S. and Israel-based firm said it had closed a $170 million Series E funding round. YieldPlanet, based in Bellevue, Washington, had raised an undisclosed amount of Series A funding from Giza Polish Ventures, according to Crunchbase.

Guesty will integrate YieldPlanet’s tools for hospitality distribution, revenue management, and other functions for full-time property managers of short-term rentals, hostels, and hotels.

Guesty announced the news on Wednesday at a conference on short-term rentals it is running in Austin, Texas. The company also announced direct integrations with HopperTrip.comMarriott Homes & Villas, and Google’s Hotel and Vacation Rental Search Products

Startups

Guesty Raises $170 Million for Short-Term Rental Management Software

6 months ago

Guesty, which makes software for managing short-term rentals and other travel lodging, said on Tuesday it had raised $170 million in a Series E round of funding.

Apax Digital Funds, MSD Partners, and Sixth Street Growth led the round, while existing investors Viola Growth and Flashpoint also took part. Guesty said it was on track to generate $100 million in revenues within the next year.

“Despite an exceptionally challenging fundraising climate, the funding Guesty has raised is a vote of confidence in the travel and short-term rental ecosystem,” said co-founder and CEO Amiad Soto.

Customers use Guesty to take bookings and payments directly and via Airbnb, Vrbo, Expedia, Booking.com, and other online travel agencies. The platform helps streamline the process of communicating with guests and handling housekeeping and other operational tasks.

The company will use some of the capital to make acquisitions and expand into unspecified new business verticals. Its executives believe that, as short-term rental managers become more professionalized and grow in size, they will outsource more tasks to tech vendors. They argue that this dynamic will lead to industry consolidation. For context, Skift Research subscribers can read Skift Research’s hospitality reports.

Guesty was part of the winter 2014 class at Y Combinator. One of the things the accelerator’s mentors taught Guesty’s founders was to focus on creating a small fan base of dedicated customers and super-serving them before scaling. Soto credits focus on polishing the product for the edge the company has had over rivals.

Online Travel

Charts: Big 3 Online Travel Companies Finish the First Half at 52-Week Stock Price Lows

7 months ago

Stubborn inflation and fears of recession pushed Airbnb, Booking Holdings, and Expedia Group toward marking 52-week stock price lows on Thursday, the last day of the second quarter, as seen in three charts below.

An Airbnb in Milan, Italy. Airbnb
Yahoo Finance
Yahoo Finance
Yahoo Finance

Airbnb, Expedia and Booking Holdings weren’t alone in their respective plunges, however. The Nasdaq Composite Index likewise was trading at a 52-week low.

These companies’ market caps were smallish compared with better times: Booking Holdings ($71.8 billion), Airbnb ($58 billion), and Expedia Group ($14.8 billion).

Many analysts had written off Booking Holdings as a fading also-ran after the blockbuster Airbnb IPO, but its market cap was considerably higher than Airbnb’s today, the end of the first half of the financial year.

Yahoo Finance

We reported Wednesday that traffic and bookings for the trio were soft in June as compared with June 2019, and this could be a sign of a less-robust summer travel season than what many had predicted.

SimilarWeb found that hotels and vacation rental sites took share from online travel agencies like Booking.com and Expedia.com in the first half of 2022.

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