There is little doubt that residential rental sites such as Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway are disrupting the multi-billion dollar hotel business.
There is still significant debate about the long-term impact of that disruption but if a new study conducted by Hitwise, a division of Connexity, is any indication, these sites are complicating hotels’ online efforts.
According to the study, monthly visits to sites like Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway has surged by 70% over the past three years while direct traffic to hotel sites has decreased by 3.6%.
While the latter might seem like a modest decline, consider this: Hitwise estimates that within the next 12 months, visits to residential rental sites will surpass direct visits to hotel sites.
What’s more, the Airbnbs of the world would appear to have potentially more favorable traffic profiles than their hotel site competitor.
They are slightly less dependent on search engine traffic than hotel sites and they generate more than double and triple the traffic from social channels and email, respectively.
Hitwise speculates that this “may be due to the fact that travelers seeking rentals may be emailing property links to friends” at a much higher clip, a behavior that is beneficial for rental sites for obvious reasons.
Not surprisingly, the rise of residential rental sites has not been kind to hotel aggregators like Booking.com and Hotels.com either.
According to Hitwise, their traffic has declined by nearly 8% over the past three years.
They are most dependent on search engine traffic, which when paid for can be very costly, and while they do receive more traffic from social channels and email than hotel sites, they don’t outperform them by much in these two categories.
What should hotels and aggregators do?
While the continued rise of rental sites seems all but inevitable, hotels and aggregators can’t sit on their hands.
In an effort to ensure that they don’t unnecessarily cede gains to rental sites, they should look at consumer behavior, which might explain in part why rental sites have been so successful.