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Who’s aware of Airbnb?
LJ Research’s market research investigates if residential sharing services pose threats to the hotel industry.
Airbnb, the short-term apartment and room-rental service, is often portrayed as a real game changer for the hotel industry. In city centre districts of Berlin, 1 in 50 flats is now let to tourists via Airbnb; in New York City, hoteliers sued the San Francisco-based start up as they feared its unfair competition; and even socialist Cuba lets tourists rent rooms via the platform.
So must traditional hospitality businesses fear the knock-on effect that Airbnb and other home share services like One Fine Stay and BedyCasa may have on them? Perhaps Airbnb merely does to hotels what YouTube did to television: stole some market share in a niche segment but TV remains dominant amongst core audiences?
Between January and June, LJ Research has surveyed more than 900 visitors to the UK about Airbnb. For more information about the sample, please scroll to the bottom of this page.
Over the next 6 weeks, we’ll release findings from our survey in a series of blogposts.
Part 1: Who knows and does not know about Airbnb?
Part 2: Why would travellers use Airbnb?
Part 3: Should Airbnb be regulated to protect travellers and / or the hospitality industry?
Part 1: Who knows of Airbnb?
The potential threat of Airbnb and other home share services has been widely debated in the hospitality industry for a fairly long time. However, it is important to bear in mind that what professionals know and discuss is not necessarily at the forefront of today’s consumer mindset.
We asked our panel if they were aware of Airbnb and, as illustrated in the graph below, the majority had never heard of the platform.
Further analysis, however, has revealed segments in which the majority are aware of the short-term letting platform.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the younger the market, the more likely it is that travellers have heard of Airbnb.
The graph illustrates as well that Airbnb is particularly well known in its home market: North American travellers were much more likely to have heard of the platform; this compares to only 38% in Europe and less than a third in the UK.
Given that Airbnb rentals often significantly undercut hotels’ average rates one could assume that the platform is more appealing to the budget traveller. But if that were the case, one would assume that the platform is better known among those with lower household incomes. In fact, the opposite is the case as, broadly, those with higher household incomes demonstrated higher levels of awareness of Airbnb.
We asked the 39% of all travellers who were aware of Airbnb if they had ever used the platform or had only heard of it. The graph below illustrates that only a minority could be considered a ‘warm’ audience: 23% said they used it occasionally or whenever possible; and only 14% said they have not yet used the platform but are keen to explore the option. That said, half of those who are aware of the residential sharing service said that they had never used it but did not rule out ever using it in the future.
When asked to share their thoughts on the platform, this is what some of our respondents said:
“I have not used Airbnb yet but family members have and are very pleased with it. I also have friends who offer this service and they have found it an excellent way of making some cash on an irregular basis.”
“Before taking this survey I have never heard of Airbnb! From now on, I am pretty sure, I won’t only look for hotels to stay, when planning a holiday!”
So does Airbnb challenge the hotel industry?
Taken as a whole, our findings so far demonstrate that Airbnb is well known amongst younger, often American and (based on household income figures) perhaps better educated travellers. This in itself may be a threat for hotels as a) this is an attractive segment; and, b) a segment that is more likely to shop around where they know of alternatives. However, our findings so far suggest that only a minority of those who know Airbnb have actually used the platform. Then again, only a small number within this group ruled out to ever use Airbnb.
Why would travellers opt for private rooms rather than checking in at a hotel or serviced apartment? We will answer these and further questions in the next part of our series.
Links to previous Airbnb Market Research
Our previous blogposts about Airbnb are published on our website. For an analysis on…
travellers’ views on regulating Airbnb, click here.
why travellers would use Airbnb in the first place, click here.
Between January and June 2015, market researchers LJ Research surveyed 900 travellers in the UK. The sample is primarily comprised of visitors to London (but also Edinburgh, Glasgow, and other destinations in the UK – they have previously taken one of our visitor surveys). Some 40% were from the UK, 20% were from North America, 25% from Europe.
Click here to read the second part of our series about why travellers choose to stay with Airbnb in the first place.