Chapter 1

Top Airbnb Competitors and What Sets Them Apart

With over 5 million active listings and 150 million users, it’s safe to say that everyone knows Airbnb is at the top of the vacation rental industry’s throne.

Anyone can find a short term rental option that fits their travel needs on Airbnb. Whether that be in an urban or rural area, on the beach or in the forest, shared homes or properties all to yourself, Airbnb has got it.

Airbnb was able to capture a wide market share of the vacation rental industry, but they are not the only ones doing well today. In fact, there are many other companies that offer similar services and are even finding enough success to compete with Airbnb.

Who are Airbnb’s competitors? As a host, it’s always good to get to know what other companies are in the same industry so you can expand your audience and get more bookings. In this guide, we’ll compare Airbnb with some other common listing sites, so let us go over the top Airbnb competitors.


Airbnb market share vs. competitors

Since 2010, Airbnb’s market share has risen dramatically and will most likely continue to rise going into the future. They currently operate in 220 different countries across the globe and get around 78 million unique monthly visitors, making it a truly internationally recognized company.

Airbnb has a giant footprint in the vacation rental industry market share. It’s estimated that Airbnb’s market share is about 20% of the entire vacation rental market, which brings its worth to about $93 billion.

The other 80% of the market is divided among dozens of competitors, with Vrbo, TripAdvisor, Expedia and Booking.com taking up the most slices of the market after Airbnb.

Main Airbnb competitors

As we’ve seen, Airbnb owns the biggest slice of the vacation rental market pie, but there are several competitors who are challenging its reign. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest forces to be reckoned with.

Vrbo

Vrbo Homepage English

 

As Airbnb’s biggest competitor with over 2 million listings and vacation rentals in 190 countries and counting, Vrbo is the next most important website, following Airbnb, to be familiar with for your vacation rental business.

Vrbo is an acronym that stands for “vacation rentals by owner”. It started out as its own independent company in 1995, but was acquired by HomeAway in 2006, and later by the vacation industry giant Expedia Group in 2015.

Being a part of the parent brand the Expedia Group, Vrbo listers get access to the entire Expedia network. Whenever you list your property on Vrbo, it gets automatically listed on Expedia. This grows your visibility from the 15.9 million unique monthly visitors per month on Vrbo to the 730 million monthly unique visitors on the Expedia Group.

Airbnb vs. Vrbo: How do they compare?

Airbnb and Vrbo share a lot of things in common. Similar to Airbnb, Vrbo is a vacation rental platform where homeowners list their properties directly on the website. They both offer unique accommodations that range from beach houses, mountain cabins, treehouses, villas, boats and more.

Both of them also offer similar features as well. They allow private and commercial homeowners to rent their properties, execute transactions, get a commission from each booking and offer special distinction to hosts that provide exceptional service.

One of the main differences between Airbnb and Vrbo is that Vrbo only offers entire properties for rent, that’s the whole apartment, house, villa or condominium. On Vrbo, you will always have the place to yourself compared to Airbnb, where there is an option to do house shares. Because of this, Vrbo tends to attract larger and more high-end rental properties. In turn, they cater more to families, groups of friends and travelers with higher budgets.

 

Booking.com

Booking.com Homepage

Booking.com was founded in 1996 as a startup in Amsterdam. On top of accommodations, it also offers bookings in flights, rental cars, attractions, airport taxis and also flight and hotel combination deals. It originally only offered hotel accommodations, but now, it has invested in growing its inventory of vacation rentals.

Booking.com offers more than 28 million accommodation listings, with about 6.2 million of those being homes, apartments and unique short term rentals. It is available in 224 countries and boasts 20.1 million unique monthly visitors.

In recent times, this online travel agency (OTA) had invested large amounts of money into marketing itself and growing its brand recognition, especially in the United States. That being said, Booking.com is expected to grow and compete for a larger portion of the market share.

Airbnb vs. Booking.com: How do they compare?

Airbnb and Booking.com have both made a name for themselves in the travel industry; however, their main focuses differ a bit. Airbnb has always been about homeowners being able to list their spare rooms or properties for profit, while Booking.com is still primarily for reserving hotel rooms.

In terms of markets, Airbnb has an edge over Booking.com in the United States, but Booking.com has its stronghold in Europe. It’s estimated that Booking.com has 67% of the market share in Europe.

Also, Booking.com provides services that range in all categories of travel and vacation, while Airbnb only has vacation rentals for accommodation. Booking.com is trying to compete in the vacation rental business now with their Homestays option, but only time will tell if they are able to catch up to Airbnb in this category.

Expedia

Expedia Homepage

Expedia is an established OTA that offers start to finish vacation services such as flights, cars, stays, things to do, cruises and bundle packages.

Generally speaking, Expedia does not come to mind when thinking of vacation rentals, but they do offer the option by filtering by property type on their webpage and also through their many partners. The Expedia Group owns Expedia, Vrbo, Hotels.com, Hotwire.com, Orbitz, Travelocity, trivago and CarRentals.com to name a few.

In total, the Expedia Group has about 3 million available lodgings with 2 million of those being alternative accommodations and 875,000 being hotels. The group also owns over 200 travel industry websites that are present in more than 70 countries. They get about 18.8 million monthly visitors, just behind Booking.com.

 

Airbnb vs. Expedia: How do they compare?

Because of Expedia’s wide range of services, they have a broader audience than Airbnb.  Similar to Booking.com, Expedia’s main accommodation focus has historically been hotels, while Airbnb’s is short term rentals.

This can mean that your vacation rental will have less competition on Expedia than on Airbnb, but it also means that people might not be looking for vacation rentals specifically on Expedia.

Airbnb also likes to run all of its operations under the Airbnb brand, while Expedia is a conglomerate that operates its subsidiaries under their original brand names. As Airbnb keeps growing, it might start to take away from Expedia’s subsidiaries with weaker brand recognition.

However, both Expedia and Airbnb are and will continue to remain highly recognizable brands within the vacation industry.

TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor Homepage

The biggest online travel advisor, TripAdvisor is a prominent company known for providing ratings and feedback about the travel industry, accommodations, activities and entertainment options. It’s no surprise that this trusted brand is also a successful OTA providing hotels, vacation rentals, things to do, restaurants, travel forums, flights, cruises and more.

TripAdvisor helps 490 million travelers each month and has over 800 million reviews. There are 8.7 million options listed on TripAdvisor, which currently operates in 48 countries and in 28 different languages. When you list your vacation rental on the website, it automatically gets translated to each language, taking your listing international.

Airbnb vs. TripAdvisor: How do they compare?

Similar to Booking.com and Expedia, TripAdvisor is a true OTA compared to a vacation rental marketplace. So, if you list your short term rental on TripAdvisor, then you are competing with hotels instead of just with other rentals like on Airbnb. TripAdvisor has a vacation rentals tab directly on the homepage menu, so vacation rentals are still highly visible.

Because TripAdvisor owns other vacation rental brands, such as FlipKey, when you list on TripAdvisor, your listing gets automatically published on their other brand pages. Airbnb does not have this type of independent website under its control, so when you list on Airbnb, your property will only be listed on Airbnb.

Both of these websites have distinctive badges that they award hosts to reward outstanding services or accommodations. These badges are equally recognized throughout the community as being prestigious awards that set your listing apart.

 

Flipkey

Flipkey Homepage

Flipkey is a subsidiary of TripAdvisor. It was founded in 2007 as a house-swapping platform and was acquired by TripAdvisor the following year. It now focuses solely on vacation rentals.

Today, Flipkey has more than 830,000 listings in over 179 countries worldwide. Backed by TripAdvisor, you can see ratings from its parent company directly on the listing when browsing, which emphasizes how important it is to get ratings and reviews from guests.

Airbnb vs. Flipkey: How do they compare?

Both Airbnb and Flipkey have their main focus on vacation rentals. While on Airbnb, you can book a room or house to be shared, Flipkey only offers whole accommodations. Both websites offer great housing options that range across terrains and have filters to better find your dream vacation rental.

Even though both are vacation rental websites, Flipkey has access to a wider audience than Airbnb due to its connection to TripAdvisor. This makes their target audiences slightly different as well. If someone is looking for all parts of their vacation planned, they will more likely land on Flipkey and TripAdvisor than on Airbnb.

9flats

9flats Homepage

Founded in 2011, 9flats is a smaller competitor of Airbnb, but it is not to be overlooked. It has about 50,000 members and 30,000 hosts in 104 countries. It provides short term rentals for rent or lease.

Airbnb vs. 9flats: How do they compare?

Both Airbnb and 9flats work about the same with filtering for available dates for accommodations that range from your normal apartment or beach house to more niche options like igloos or tree houses.

It’s important to note that Airbnb advertises itself as a vacation rental website, whereas 9flats claims to be a short term rental platform. Even though it does not seem like there is a big difference between vacation rentals and short term rentals, this differentiation can mean that 9flats also wants to attract non-vacation-specific renters, which shows with their leasing option.

Airbnb has made its footprint around the world, even though it is based in the U.S. Airbnb has a stronghold in the U.S., whereas 9flats is based in Europe and is working on setting up its brand there.

Plum Guide

Plum Guide Homepage

Plum Guide is a relatively new luxury vacation rental website that was founded in 2015. Recently its been generating talk within the vacation rental industry because of its growing popularity.

Plum Guide is still a small business with only 12,000 listings across 17 countries which are located across Europe, Turkey, the United States, and Mexico. This small number of listings may be intentional to garner a sense of exclusivity to the website.

To get listed on Plum Guide, hosts must pass a rigorous Plum Test which uses an algorithm and physical visits by hospitality experts to assess if your short term rental property is luxurious enough to join the website.

 

Airbnb vs. Plum Guide: How do they compare?

Airbnb and Plum Guide compete within the same market, but Plum Guide tries to go even more niche by only targeting travelers who want a luxury experience instead of a general audience.

Airbnb does not have many restrictions when it comes to listing your property, so it is fairly open to all. Plum Guide, on the other hand, only allows the top 1% of homes onto its books. In fact, only 3% of houses that apply for Plum Guide even make it past the Plum Test. Plum Guide curates the houses that it has listed, and Airbnb leaves it up to the user to curate their trip as desired.

Plum Guide poses a threat to the luxury locations and users on Airbnb. If Plum Guide gains enough traction, it may be able to steal those customers away from the vacation rental giant.

Takeaways

Airbnb is one of the top listing sites for short term rentals out there. It has the highest number of vacation rentals of any site and hundreds of millions of active users. However, Airbnb does not have a monopoly over the vacation rental industry and there are many other websites competing with Airbnb that offer accommodations and more.

As a short term rental owner,  it’s important to know and explore the different listing site options there are to make sure that your property is being shown on the right websites to reach your business goals. If you want to reach a wider audience, join Expedia. If you want another website that specializes in vacation rentals, join Vrbo or 9flats. If you have a luxury property, join Plum Guide.

Whichever website you pick, you won’t go wrong.