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UK Vacationers Remain Lukewarm About Airbnb

Deals for direct booking are swaying more travel researchers

July 12, 2017 | Retail & Ecommerce | Travel

Historically, booking accommodations hasn’t been high on the list of UK vacationers’ digital travel purchases. But that’s changing, according to recent studies, as leisure travelers see the benefits of dealing directly with hoteliers and other lodging providers online.

More than half of the UK’s population made a digital travel booking for the first time in 2015, according to eMarketer estimates. This year, approximately 53% of the country’s adult population, and nearly 62% of its internet users ages 18 and older, will go online to book some element of upcoming leisure travel.

The percentage of the UK population that books their accommodations directly with hotels is also growing, according to recent research.

In late February and early March, Opinium Research LLP polled UK consumers who planned to vacation domestically this summer for Barclays Bank. It found that 37% of respondents planned to book their stays directly with hotels this year, up from 30% in 2012 and just 17% in 2007.

Respondents’ reasons for booking directly on hotel sites included lower prices (62%), benefits offered specifically to those who booked directly (39%) and easier booking experiences (37%), Opinium found.

US Adult Airbnb Users and Penetration, 2016-2021 (millions and % of adult internet users)

Home-sharing firm Airbnb remained relatively unpopular among those polled, however. Just 6% of respondents planned to use that service to book vacation lodgings in the UK this year, according to Opinium. Meanwhile, 49% planned on using a traditional hotel for domestic vacations.

That indifference to Airbnb has also been seen in other studies of UK leisure travelers this year. Research from Toluna for HSBC Global Research found that about 62% of UK consumers polled in February would not consider using Airbnb.

In contrast, a recent survey by fintech firm Ferratum Group found more interest among UK consumers in using Airbnb in 2017 than it had in earlier years. In Ferratum’s latest study, 19% of UK respondents planned to use Airbnb’s holiday rental platform during their summer holidays this year, up from just 1% in 2016.

Ferratum’s figure puts Airbnb usage in the UK closer to that seen in the US, where eMarketer estimates nearly 17% of adult internet users will employ the home-sharing service at least once during 2017.

While up strongly from 2016, Ferratum’s Airbnb use estimate for 2017 shows that the use of home-sharing for leisure travel is still far from a mainstream behavior among UK vacationers. But the concept is also clearly gaining steam among some UK consumers.

Cliff Annicelli

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