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Vacation rental distribution: How Airbnb, Vrbo & Booking.com OTAs compare

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This article dives into how Airbnb, Vrbo & Booking.com OTAs compare, and what it all means for vacation rental distribution.

Whilst there are some core, widely acknowledged differences, a data-based look at each short-term rental OTA is a huge step towards optimizing your short-term rental distribution. What does the average listing look like? (Who you’re competing with) and what does the average booking look like? (Who your guests would be). Read on for the importance of distribution strategy and OTA comparisons of:

  • Continental supply

  • Market types

  • Inventory types

  • Property size

  • Average rate

  • Average length of stay

  • Average booking window

  • Guest origin

Vacation rental distribution: What does the average listing look like across OTAs?

There are known nuances to the platforms and what they offer, for example, Airbnb offer ‘room only’ options – over 1.5 million of them in fact, which of course makes a difference to those listing a room. However, for the majority, this question largely comes down to how Airbnb, Vrbo & Booking.com OTAs compare in terms of their inventory – what it is and where it is.

How Airbnb, Vrbo & Booking.com OTAs compare: Supply distribution

First, let’s consider where each channel’s inventory is focussed within global supply. While Airbnb has a strong quota in every world region, it is particularly strong for South America Asia and also North America. North Americans and those property managers in Oceania should also focus on Vrbo. In Europe particularly, Booking.com should not be overlooked, while it is also strong in Asia and South America.

Continental vacation rental supply by OTA distribution graph

That’s if we consider it to be an advantage to err your distribution towards those platforms with more of your type – running with the logic that potential guests are more likely to be looking for your property. However there is also something to be said for listing on sites with less competition for your segment. Especially given that there is also the consideration of the geographical popularity of certain sites amongst bookers.

How Airbnb, Vrbo & Booking.com OTAs compare: Supply types

Here we consider the types of inventory on the main short-term rental channels. This covers both the physical property type – apartments, houses, castles and so on. It also goes into the market types seen across our key OTAs, including beach, urban and ski.

Below you have our market type proportions for Airbnb, Booking.com and Vrbo. While hotels are more concentrated in urban hubs, rentals better serve those who are wanting a more isolated, rural getaway. As such, rural stock is strongest across the board here, but particularly on Booking.com.

Vacation rental OTA inventory by market type chartsWhile rural supply is lowest on Vrbo, this quota far eclipses the lowest urban % and is made up for by its beach and lake contingent. In fact, 34% of Vrbo listings are in a beach or lake market – nearing double that of Airbnb and Booking.com.

As may be expected, Airbnb particularly shines in the urban sector, with 34% of its stock considered urban. Finally, when it comes to ski accommodation, people will likely lean towards Vrbo. Then we come to stock types…

Vacation rental OTA supply by inventory typeThe above donut charts illustrate the proportions of different types of properties on our vacation rental OTAs. First it should be noted that we have discounted hotel and hostel stock from our analysis.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, apartments are the bread and butter of short-term rental supply, irrespective of platform, yet the proportion is particularly dominant on Airbnb. Houses and apartments together make up over 80% of properties listed on both Airbnb and Vrbo. For Booking this is under 60%, as they list a more varied selection of more professionally aligned stock (bed and breakfasts and guest houses for example).

And so, if you're managing rural apartments, there's not much of a choice; other stock types may wish to more carefully consider their preferences.

Vacation rental distribution: What does the average booking look like across OTAs?

So that's the average listing for each OTA hammered out. Next we turn to bookings. This is the more critical part of our analysis, as it speaks not only to which platforms you should prioritise, but how your strategy should vary across those platforms.

How Airbnb, Vrbo & Booking.com OTAs compare: Booking size & cost

Below we have a schematic for the average daily rate paid for a 2 bed vacation rental on each of our OTAs. This indicates some clear differences in pricing strategy from platform to platform, with Airbnb 50% more expensive than Vrbo. It should be noted that this is only for 2 bed bookings, and this picture could look very different in larger properties.

Vrbo Airbnb Bookingcom bedroom ADR and properties booked on averageAs a result we also added the average size of a booked property. While Booking is more aligned with the solo or couple's booking, Airbnb cater for slightly larger bookings. Vrbo meanwhile are firmly catering for the family or group market with 3 bedroom properties most common.

How Airbnb, Vrbo & Booking.com OTAs compare: Booking timing & origin

Next up it's booking lead time, length of stay and origin.

Our first chart indicates both average number of days stayed, and days booked in advance. While short-term rental length of stay is up generally post-pandemic, stays are shorter with Booking.com (3 days) than Vrbo and Airbnb (4 days).

Average booking window and length of stayBooking window meanwhile is shorter for Booking.com and for Airbnb - a huge 81% shorter than Vrbo (47 days). Length of stay and booking window are important as they impact pricing and pacing strategy from platform to platform (LoS discounts and booking pacing which impacts where you price at peak for example).

Domestic vs international trips per OTAFinally we look at the % of platform bookings made by domestic guests. This is defined as a booking where the guest and the listing are from the same country.

It shows Vrbo to be extremely domestic - partly due to a strong North American supply (where domestic travel is particularly strong). On Booking meanwhile, 33% of reservations come from an international source. This metric is important as it impacts how pricing and also how a listing should be marketed.

The importance of an informed vacation rental distribution strategy

Ultimately distribution is a large driver of occupancy, and more occupancy equals more revenue. We can see below that in general, the more channels your property is listed on - and don't forget direct), the more nights are booked per month.

Average booked nights per month per listing based on platform distributionWhat the above analysis shows us however, is that while distribution should be as broad as possible, it must be tailored for optimal impact to your revenue.

You should prioritise platforms for your stock types, and specify rates, pacing, length of stay discounts and marketing across channels. OTA fees are also important of course - you can view a full breakdown here. But the bottom line is - have visibility over your channels and mould your strategy to their demand types - you'll make more money for it.

Why short-term rental data is crucial

Data is what gives you that visibility. More granular, segmental data per platform in real time can help you to piece together the perfect pricing and marketing plan. How much is a 4 bed villa in Miami over Saturdays in June? How are Airbnb apartment bookings pacing for New Year's Eve in London's Soho? The answers to these questions mean that you will have the right distribution strategy across your portfolio, and you can find them through the Destination Insight Lighthouse dashboard below by clicking below or by exploring solutions here.

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