With the U.S. government recently lifting its pandemic travel ban and opening its door to international visitors, this holiday season will be filled with travelers reconnecting with loved ones after more than a year and half apart due to the pandemic. As the pent-up travel demand materializes, take a look at how alternative accommodations and traditional hotels are faring in capturing customer share of bookings compared to 2020.
There was a sharp share shift during 2020 in the hotel sector. Market share spiked for alternative accommodations while direct supplier hotels share saw a commensurate fall off. Alternative accommodation was the preferred choice for those who were still travelling during that time, partly in an effort to minimize their exposure to public spaces. At the time, there was speculation this could yield a step change and accelerate the growth of alternative accommodations. However, the market share shift has since reverted and the direct hotel supplier sub-segment is currently seeing the momentum, which is great news for hotel suppliers.
OTA = Online travel agency
But there are other signals that alternative accommodations have gained ground in the broader accommodations segment.
Domain sessions to pure play rental sites were similar to Suppliers and OTAs through 2020. And, the gap in visitation to pure play rental sites vis-a-vis Suppliers + OTAs has narrowed from an average 67 percent advantage for Suppliers + OTAs in 2019 down to a 51 percent advantage today.
In addition, while the rebound was swift in 2021, nearing the same online visitation levels in June and July 2021 as pre-pandemic for all accommodation types, we've since seen a notable drop for suppliers and OTAs in September 2021 versus September 2019 (-11 percent) compared to a slight rise for home rental sites (+5 percent), likely due to the delta variant surge that began in July 2021.1
Despite the similar levels of visitation to rental sites as to Suppliers + OTAs through 2020, alternative accommodation bookings softened after June 2020. This was likely the result of reduced inventory due to higher demand, longer stays, owners utilizing their own rental properties, and other owners delisting their spaces for a variety of reasons. All of this limited the runway for growth of alternative accommodations and perhaps caused travelers to fall back on the traditional hotels.
Since then, bookings for all accommodation types have rebounded strongly in 2021, and direct hotel supplier bookings exceeded their 2019 levels in the month of July 2021 (+4 percent), which was very encouraging for the industry. However, what has been observed since July 2021 indicates that the delta variant is likely triggering similar pandemic behaviors toward rentals. The declines versus 2019 are more for direct supplier (-4 percent) and OTA supplier bookings (-22 percent) than for rental bookings which have held up better (-2 percent).
There is also more interest in alternative accommodations among supplier hotel audiences than before. Supplier hotels have been experiencing increased cross-visitation with pure play home rental sites versus pre-pandemic levels. That cross-visitation now results in at least a quarter of their site visitors also looking at home rental sites. The estimated minimum cross-visit rate among leading hotel suppliers with the leading pure-play home rental sites was up 37 percent in September 2021 versus September 2019 pre-pandemic level (+21 percent vs. September 2020).
Further, the leading hotel suppliers on average have seen an increase of 7 percent in their bookings lost to alternative accommodations (listed on pure play rental sites and on OTAs) from summer 2019 (+11 percent vs. summer 2020). [Lost bookings = visited the hotel supplier website and subsequently made a booking elsewhere in the same month.]
OTA (hotel/stay path only): most Online Travel Agency (OTA) websites offer multiple travel product lines such as flights, hotels and car rentals. This data represents only the traffic related to the hotel/stay path on OTAs
Alternative Accommodations: accommodations that do not fall into the traditional supplier hotel category, such as vacation/rental homes
Pure play: Websites that specialize predominantly in Vacation/home rentals such as Airbnb, VRBO, and Vacasa
OTA Supplier: bookings on an OTA that were for a hotel supplier chain
OTA Non-Supplier: bookings on an OTA that were not with a hotel supplier chain
Lost Booking: A traveler visits Company X website and then subsequently makes a booking on a competitor website within the same month