Estimated Read: 10 minutes.
There are now several vacation rental platforms that compete with Airbnb. Given the variety of choice that is now available, choosing the right one can be confusing. Lets look at the pros and cons of using each one.
Whilst they are not the oldest of all of the companies on here, they are the most established. The dominant player with a huge global reach, Airbnb has become a household name.
Advantages of using Airbnb:
✅ It’s booking fees are relatively modest compared to other platforms at 3% (with some exceptions).
✅ Unlike some other platforms it does offer some protection to its hosts if something goes wrong (e.g. if a guest damages your house or is injured).
✅ Airbnb allows you to rent out just a room unlike some other platforms. This is great for people that aren’t ready to rent out their entire property or are just looking to test the waters.
✅ It is the big player in the market. Its name is global and you could have a potentially larger reach of guests that could be interested in your property.
Disadvantages of using Airbnb:
❌ The protection offered by Airbnb is limited. If you rely on them to cover you, you could be seriously out of pocket if they do not pay out on a claim.
❌ Unless you are a hotel or hospitality business, Airbnb charges guests a service fee to cover the costs of things like credit card fees and customer support.
❌ Being global could mean that you have more competition. This is better for guests but could be tougher for hosts in terms of maximising the number of bookings they get. If your property is in a popular area then this may apply to you.
HomeAway and VRBO.
Owned by the Expedia Group, HomeAway was actually founded 4 years before Airbnb. In 2015, Expedia also acquired VRBO.
Advantages of using HomeAway and VRBO:
✅ Like Airbnb, HomeAway and VBRO also offer some protection to its hosts such as if a guest is injured or if a guest damages someone else’s property.
✅ It also has worldwide reach.
✅ Both HomeAway and VRBO give you the option to pay annual subscriptions.
✅ As the Airbnb industry grows and becomes widely seen as an acceptable alternative to hotels, more and more people may seek Airbnb alternatives. Savvy hosts may also look to use alternative platforms that already have brand recognition.
Disadvantages of using HomeAway and VRBO:
❌ The protection offered by both platforms is also limited and unlike Airbnb they don’t cover any host property damage. Check out our HomeAway article for more info.
❌ Unlike Airbnb you can only rent out your entire property. If you can only rent out your room then HomeAway and VRBO will not be the platforms for you.
❌ Their host fees are higher than Airbnb’s.
A massive player in the hotel and travel industry, Booking.com now also allows hosts to list their property online and compete with hotels.
Advantages of using Booking.com:
✅ Booking.com charge a single fee, which makes it more straightforward than other platforms that have different charges.
✅ They are a household name in the accommodation industry, meaning that you will have visibility to a wide audience.
✅ Unlike websites like Airbnb, Booking.com also lists hotels on its platform. This could give you exposure to a different audience to other platforms.
✅ Booking.com does not charge guests any additional fees unlike platforms such as Airbnb, which could make it more attractive to some guests.
Disadvantages of using Booking.com:
❌ You will get no insurance protection if something goes wrong.
❌ You can only list entire homes.
❌ At 15%, their commission is the highest of the platforms listed here.
❌ Being listed alongside hotels could be a double-edged sword as you could be competing with them.
TripAdvisor and FlipKey
Whilst being primarily well known across the world as a social media travel review website, TripAdvisor also allows visitors to look at comparison tools for booking holidays and accommodation. FlipKey is a vacation rental website like Airbnb. It was acquired by TripAdvisor in 2008. HouseTrip is similar to FlipKey and was acquired by TripAdvisor in 2016.
Advantages of using TripAdvisor, FlipKey or HouseTrip:
✅ TripAdvisor is a big company with millions of visitors to its site.
✅ TripAdvisor is already a household name in the travel industry, which will help it attract potential guests. This brand recognition also benefits owners listing their property on FlipKey and HouseTrip.
✅ On TripAdvisor you can also book hotels and flights, which could give your property exposure to a more diverse audience than on websites like Airbnb.
✅ Owners on FlipKey and HouseTrip may face less competition in the UK as they are less well known.
Disadvantages of using TripAdvisor and FlipKey:
❌ No protection is offered to owners if their property is damaged by a guest or if a claim is brought against them.
❌ You can only list your entire home.
❌ Like Airbnb, TripAdvisor, FlipKey and HouseTrip charge additional fees to guests, which could put them off.
❌ FkipKey and House Trip are less well known in the UK. You could have less guest bookings.
❌ On TripAdvisor, you will be competing against hotels.
Which platform is the best?
It really depends on your situation on what your goals are. Your market research and the type of guest you want to attract could also decide which platform you decide to use. If you are completely new to hosting, you may want to check out our guide on being an Airbnb host.
Renting out a room, just starting out or want your property to be viewed by lots of guests?
Airbnb is a good place to start if you fall into this category. It is the only place listed here that allows you to rent out just your room, it has instant brand recognition and millions of guests worldwide that use its site every year.
Do you want to use a platform that offers protection if something goes wrong?
Airbnb and HomeAway are the only platforms at the time of writing that offer some protection. HomeAway however, offer no cover for damage to the host’s property unlike Airbnb. Overall, the cover that both platforms is limited. You may also want to consider taking out specialist insurance with a broker such as Pikl as most home and landlord insurers will not provide adequate insurance cover either.
Looking for an Airbnb alternative or more flexible fee options?
Whilst less well known than Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO are also big players in this market with lots of guests also using their service. Their annual subscription option for hosts is a nice option if you are tempted by the idea of paying a lump sum annual fee rather than paying a commission per booking.
Want a service that doesn’t charge guests fees?
Booking.com is the platform to use although its host fees are quite steep at 15% per booking.
Are fees important to you?
If you just want to use the site with the lowest commission then Airbnb and TripAdvisor are the cheapest. Booking.com is the highest but as you would be competing with hotels, customers on there may expect to pay higher fees.
Are you trying to reach out to customers that would ordinarily use hotels?
Booking.com and TripAdvisor are the clear winners here.
Looking for less competition?
The competition you will face with other owners will depend on other factors such as where your property is based. However, you may want to consider using well known websites in the UK such as FlipKey and HouseTrip if you’re facing stiff competition elsewhere.
Looking for a platform with brand recognition?
Airbnb is a household name and HomeAway also has a worldwide following. Booking.com and TripAdvisor are already household names. If a platform with brand recognition is your main concern, you probably could not go wrong with any of these.
Are you doing this as a full-time business?
You may want to consider using as many websites as possible to maximise the number of bookings you get. Don’t forget to sync your calendars so that you don’t overbook. You will also need to factor in the different costs into your business plan so that they do not eat into your profits.