By Robert McGarvey
Call it news…not. The headline screamed: A Majority of Avid US Travelers Have Never Used Airbnb. Color me surprised not at all.
I haven’t used it either. And I’ve become a big fan of Uber so I am fine with the sharing economy (and years ago I even drove a taxi in Boston and I feel for those drivers but by now most who can have transformed into Uber/Lyft drivers). I can’t recall the last time I took a taxi in the U.S., it’s been that long.
Sharing economy lodgings are a different matter.
The trigger for the headline is a new Skift Experiential Traveler Survey that found 63% of avid US travelers have not used Airbnb.
Only 16% said they had used Airbnb multiple times.
Incidentally, 88% said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their most recent Airbnb stay.
The real surprise: In cooking up its numbers, Skift narrowed the focus to leisure trips. Which means two in three vacationers still have never used it. Not once.
Of course there’s no surprise that Skift eliminated business travel from the calculations of Airbnb’s popularity. As a business traveler I have no interest in Airbnb. Usually my timelines are tight, I need predictability, I don’t need quirky or stylish. Chain hotels work for me. Location, reliability and price matter a lot more to me than the cool factor for business stays.
It’s hard for me to see a big bump in appeal of Airbnb among business travelers anytime soon. Millennials who are determined to be different may opt for it.
Leisure travel potentially is a very different matter.
Personally I see great appeal to using Airbnb or Homeaway if going on a family vacation to a resort area such as Santa Fe NM. A whole two bedroom within an easy walk of the plaza can be had for $149 per night. For friends I have researched Airbnb whole house and condo deals in many resort areas and often they are vastly superior to taking a couple adjacent hotel rooms. Cheaper and more spacious.
I can also see real appeal to using Airbnb if I were planning on staying perhaps a couple weeks in a Manhattan or San Francisco, where I could have a whole apartment – with kitchen – for no more than a hotel room would run.
Joe Brancatelli reminded me that he has often used VRBO to rent whole apartments in Europe and he’s right. I’m planning a trip to Dublin where the current intent is to use Airbnb or VRBO to get a whole apartment in Dublin’s D4 neighborhood. For even a long weekend this might be the way to go in Dublin or Berlin, even Rome. In such cases, by all means, go to the sharing economy. I’ll be there with you.
But, mainly, I still prefer traditional hotels in the US, for leisure as well as business, simply because of the predictability. It’s not because of the loyalty points. It’s not because of any brand loyalty. It’s just that a well-run chain hotel – with decent TripAdvisor ratings – can be counted on to not disappoint and if perhaps it does, generally in my experience those hotels are very, very good at recovery. They know how to make a bad situation right and they typically are committed to doing so in realtime.
Do I see Airbnb picking up an expanding market share? I do. There’s a real appeal to some to spend time in a real home, not a hotel.
But for me, right now, I prefer the consistency of known hotel products and there’s nothing new in that attitude. I recall when years ago stays at b and b’s were the rage among friends and I tried it out once or twice. After sharing a bedroom with an owner’s extensive doll collection I decided the b & b route was not for me. I don’t think I stayed in more than a couple b and b’s.
I am not saying Airbnb offerings are that eccentric. At least I have heard of none.
But – boring traditional hotels may be to some – to me it’s that predictability that’s the draw.