Online Rentals: Airbnb vs. vs. the rest

Online rentals: airbnb online rentals: booking dot comFor home owners who venture down the path of renting out rooms, cottages, lofts or any other section of their property, the first challenge they have is to decide which online rental portal to use. Whilst Airbnb is probably the most well-known one, there are many others that exist around the globe such as, TripAdvisor, Lekkeslaap and its English cousin Travelground, Afristay (SA’s own Airbnb equivalent), and so the list continues.

Whilst Airbnb is a company name, it has also become the de facto standard for the online rental “brand”. To explain this, I use the analogy from years back when Hoover was a brand of vacuum cleaner yet every vacuum cleaner was generically referred to as a “Hoover”. These days, Airbnb is the term used generically. An example of this is “I am going to Airbnb my property”, which does not necessarily mean that the Airbnb portal will be used versus the others that are available.

So how does one decide which is the right portal to use?

There are many criteria that one needs to consider when making this decision. These include:-

  • Strength in the local market as a source of guests, especially if you want international guests
  • Ease of use
  • Flexibility of the portal for information you want to provide on the accommodation
  • Rules and regulations
  • Commissions payable to the portal
  • Payment methods
  • Availability of support
  • Guest service and communication focus

Whilst there is a lot of common ground across the different competitors, there are some distinct differences which people base their decisions on. One of the key criteria which is often used is the visibility or generic interpretation of the brand and that is where Airbnb wins the race. They also get top marks for the low commission they charge on their bookings, then payment method and the flexibility of their portal. However, if they do not attract as many guests in a specific market segment or location then that choice may be disappointing for the home owner looking for that additional income.

The advice here is to do your research into your local market before deciding what to do. It often makes sense to use at least 2 portals and the ones that are generally top of mind are Airbnb and, specifically if you are looking to source overseas guests. The challenge here is that there is such a big differential in the commission they take that often people use the lower commission portals and then end up being disappointed in the results they get as far as bookings are concerned.

Irrespective of which portal you use, make sure that your choice is based on the above criteria and that you monitor it closely to ensure a regular flow of guests that meet the profile you wish to attract.