Thanks for sharing: insights into the shared accommodation market

06/11/2015 By Liz Healy

I’ll admit I was initially skeptical of the ‘sharing’ concept for accommodation. Opening one’s home to – or staying in the home of - strangers? There’s a myriad of things that can go wrong. But as I’ve learned from personal experience, there’s also a lot that can go right.

My main motivations for trying a shared accommodation site were threefold: ‘live like a local’, convenience and price. A few years ago my partner and I escaped the confines of a hotel for our longer business trips, which were mostly in London. We wanted to explore new areas during our down time, have more space, and the advantage of a kitchen to cook our own meals, thus not spending a fortune in restaurants. By opening ourselves to the concept of booking a shared accommodation we met great hosts, discovered new neighborhoods and sights in a city that we love, and saved money. We were sold. So sold, in fact, that we have since become shared accommodation hosts in both the US and the UK.

But back to the speed bumps. The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), whose members represent 52,000 properties in the US, recently announced that it plans to work across the country to battle against the current practices of short-term rental companies like Airbnb and Homeaway. Should the AHLA and its members be worried? Recent research by BVA BDRC Americas suggests the answer is “yes”: shared accommodations are growing and not going anywhere, anytime soon.

BVA BDRC’s last Hotel Guest Survey (HGS) highlighted several truths – and misconceptions – regarding the use of shared accommodation sites among travelers:

  • One-fifth of US consumers have used a shared accommodation site and another 44% would consider it
  • While Airbnb has the highest awareness amongst shared sites, VRBO (or Vacation Rental By Owner e.g. HomeAway) has the highest share, with 49%, compared to 34% for Airbnb.
  • Business usage of shared accommodation will help drive growth, as evidenced by business travelers (in the US) being more likely to book a shared stay than their leisure counterparts.
  • Airbnb usage is driven disproportionately by millennials.
  • Luxury hotel brand consumers have the highest usage of a shared accommodation site

We’ve been sharing these results amongst hotel professionals at the Hotel Data Conference in Nashville in August and, just this last month, at The Lodging Conference in Phoenix.

I personally hope shared accommodations are here to stay. The challenge for hotels is to better understand this new sector and how moving forward they should market to traveler segments. The more insights we can provide, the better.