What are Airbnb competitors? 

Airbnb competitors are alternative booking sites where you, as a property owner, can not only list your accommodations but also expand your reach to a vast, varied audience worldwide. By tapping into the expansive potential of these platforms, you gain access to an entirely new demographic of travellers, ultimately increasing your booking opportunities.

Airbnb originally started out as “Airbed & Breakfast” and targeted a niche segment of travellers who would share a host’s home. As its business and customer base grew, customer expectations changed. Now actual B&B operators, boutique hotels and small properties also list their rooms on Airbnb successfully.

Most recently, Airbnb has received a bullish rating by global investment firm AB Bernstein for how it ‘uniquely inspires’ customers: Airbnb is here to stay and having adopted the platform for distribution, many small hotel operators are looking for additional platforms to join. 

The accommodation rental industry is more than just Airbnb though. A number of competing platforms have grown in popularity over the years, offering unique value propositions to both property owners and travellers. By listing your property on these platforms, you are diversifying your offering and opening up new avenues of revenue.

Each platform caters to a different user base, both in terms of geography and customer preferences. Some may have a strong presence in specific regions, while others might appeal to particular demographics, such as families, budget-conscious travellers, or those seeking luxury stays. By understanding these nuances, you can strategically place your listings on platforms where your target customers are more likely to book.

In this blog post, we explore how Airbnb works as a distribution partner for small properties, what Airbnb competitors exist and what alternatives small hoteliers might want to consider in order to diversify their reach using a channel manager to help.

Airbnb top competitors

  1. Booking.com: Established in 1996, Booking.com has grown to become a significant player in the online accommodation booking market. The platform is not limited to hotels and traditional lodging options; it also caters to the short-term rental market, where it directly competes with Airbnb. Booking.com also features intuitive search and filtering options to help travellers find the perfect place to stay.
  2. Vrbo (Vacation Rentals by Owner): Vrbo is a popular vacation rental online marketplace. Originally known for allowing property owners to list their properties for rent directly, Vrbo has a substantial user base that could be a beneficial platform for your property listing.
  3. Expedia: Expedia is a comprehensive travel booking platform where users can book flights, hotels, car rentals, and vacation packages. Its vast reach and popularity make it an attractive place to list your property.
  4. TripAdvisor: Known primarily for its travel reviews, TripAdvisor also offers a platform for users to book rental properties. Listing on TripAdvisor puts your property in front of a large audience of travellers who trust the platform’s user-generated content.
  5. Agoda: Agoda is an online travel agency based in Singapore, specialising in flight and hotel booking services. It is particularly popular in the Asia-Pacific region. Agoda is part of Booking Holdings Inc., which also owns Booking.com, Priceline.com, and other online travel agencies.
  6. FlipKey: FlipKey is a vacation rental marketplace that allows users to find and book a wide variety of unique accommodations worldwide. FlipKey is a subsidiary of TripAdvisor, which means your listing could benefit from TripAdvisor’s substantial user base.
  7. HolidayLettings. A UK-based holiday home company, HolidayLettings is one of the largest holiday rental sites in Europe. It is also a subsidiary of TripAdvisor. Through this platform, owners and property managers can rent out properties to holidaymakers. With thousands of properties in over 160 countries, your listing could appeal to a global audience, offering a local and unique experience for travellers.
  8. Trip.com: Trip.com is a Chinese online travel agency, which is part of the Trip.com Group, along with Skyscanner and Ctrip. It’s a massive platform that caters to the global travel market, including hotel bookings and vacation rentals. Its user base is concentrated in Asia, but it’s growing in popularity worldwide.

Why should you use alternative sites similar to Airbnb?

As a small hotel, so much is about being seen by travellers who don’t even know to look for your hotel and may gravitate towards big brand names. Since guests who cherish a small, boutique hotel or B&B usually are looking beyond the beaten path, they often gravitate to Airbnb: finding a unique, small hotel on Airbnb is not unusual to these guests.

Gone are the days when Airbnb was exclusively for budget-conscious travellers, who did not mind sharing their accommodation with hosts on site. Listings of whole units or properties are now common and even a luxe category has been started. The site now dominates the short-term rental space and for hotels of any size strategically listing some of their hotel room inventory on Airbnb is prudent. 

Due to its longer average length of stay and diverse global customer base that is looking for more home-like accommodations, leveraging Airbnb for distribution is simple: just one room listing can expose them to an audience that may previously not have landed on their listing, because they were not specifically looking for small hotels in their search.

It’s also possible to convert these bookings elsewhere, including on their own websites, since price comparisons are part of guests’ research and their booking process. Savvy travellers know to also compare fees. Leveraging the power of visibility to a diverse and global audience of travellers can be as simple as one listing on Airbnb for a small accommodation business.

How is Airbnb different from its alternatives?

Airbnb did take many by surprise, revolutionising a well established part of the travel space. Just how that was possible, is surprisingly simple to see, when considering how traditional short-term rental suppliers engaged with customers and how new competitors differentiate themselves now. 

There was a time when the short-term rental space was not technologically savvy: clunky websites have since been upgraded, and virtually every platform now has an app to compete with Airbnb.

However, Airbnb manages to bridge a gap between leisure and corporate travellers and, unlike traditional, more focused short-term rental platforms, attracts all of those travellers to its platform. By adding experiences, Airbnb increased its influence on the guests’ entire stay; something that no one else in the space seemed to have attempted.

With that power of attraction to its platform, Airbnb converted hotels that before did not consider listing their inventory on short-term rental platforms. They had always expected the consumer to make a decision about whether they wanted a B&B, a global chain hotel, a cottage, or a rental before searching for precisely that. 

By introducing category-based search in 2022, Airbnb did not just differentiate itself from other short-term rental providers, but asked the entire travel segment to step up and update the way it inspires people to travel and research their trips.

Anyone, including a small hotel, listing a room on Airbnb in a beachfront location can now be found by anyone searching for a ‘beachfront’ holiday—not just people who specifically searched your location, region, or country. This is another way in which the audience for small hotels on Airbnb has seemingly magically grown.

What are some key specialities from Airbnb competitors?

Anyone seeing strong results from Airbnb may be looking for ‘the next Airbnb’ and other Airbnb sites but there is one thing to keep in mind: most of Airbnb’s competitors are specialised in unique ways. Some do not list hotel inventory at all but may list, for example, B&B properties or unique venues. To find the right fit for your property, some research or competitor analysis is required.

  • Sonder, Blueground and Vacasa all provide short-term rentals that are managed through their own teams; this means that they either lease or own their own properties. For guests, this can be an attractive level of added security and an opportunity to create the differentiating trust that their booking will not be cancelled.
  • Homestay sets itself apart by always having a host present (just like in the early days of Airbnb) and having them add value to the guest’s stay through their help in settling into local life. 9flats has a similar focus on renting and staying in someone else’s apartment. 
  • The Plum Guide specialises in stays at unique venues as a type of luxury Airbnb alternative, and states to only allow a tiny percentage of applicants onto its room supply. 
  • Evolve and specialised providers such as Snaptrip and cottages.com only list true holiday rentals or privately owned spaces.

While the above companies compete with Airbnb, most may not list traditional hotels with, perhaps, exceptions for smaller, more specialised ones.

How does pricing compare across Airbnb competitors?

Navigating the landscape of the alternatives to Airbnb can be complex, especially when it comes to understanding their varied pricing structures. Each platform has its unique way of charging hosts for their services, and these costs can significantly impact the profitability of your hotel. Whether it’s a commission-based model or a subscription model, it’s essential to understand these costs before deciding where to list your property.

1. Booking.com:

  • Commission-Based Model: Booking.com charges hosts a commission fee for each confirmed booking. The commission rate typically ranges from 10% to 25% depending on the property type and location.
  • No Listing Fees: There are no upfront listing fees on Booking.com, and hosts only pay a commission when a guest stays at their property. This can make it one of the cheap alternatives to Airbnb.

2. Vrbo (Vacation Rentals By Owner):

  • Subscription Model: Vrbo offers a subscription-based pricing structure where hosts pay an annual fee to list their properties. The subscription cost varies based on the number of properties and features desired.

3. Expedia

  • Commission-Based Model: Expedia charges hosts a commission fee for each confirmed booking. The commission rates range from 10% to 30% depending on the size of your hotel, and are charged on a pay-per-book basis. This means that hosts don’t get charged any fees until they actually have guests staying in their rental, protecting hosts from extra charges that come with cancellations​.

4. TripAdvisor

  • Mixed Model: TripAdvisor offers two models to hosts. With a free listing, hosts pay a processing fee of 3% per booking, calculated based on the total rent including any required and optional fees specified for the property. TripAdvisor also offers an annual listing where hosts pay an annual fee per property and can decide how to receive payments from guests. If the payments are taken through TripAdvisor’s website, a 3% processing fee applies​.

5. Agoda

  • Commission-Based Model: Agoda does not have a standard commission rate for all its hosts, as it varies based on city and country. However, most hosts report a commission rate between 15% to 20%.

6. Flipkey

  • Mixed Model: TripAdvisor owns Flipkey and they share the same fee model. See TripAdvisor.

7. Holiday Lettings

  • Mixed Model: TripAdvisor owns Holiday Lettings and they share the same fee model. See TripAdvisor.

8. Trip.com

  • Commission-Based Model: Like other platforms, Trip.com has a variable commission rate based on the size of your hotel and its location. Each booking is charged a rate between 10% and 25%.

Best Airbnb hotel alternatives 

As an independent, small hotel looking to diversify distribution, it is important to understand the purpose of individual booking platforms you consider listing on. This is not only about managing the time you spend setting up and managing the relationship, but about being seen in the right places and attracting the right types of customers. 

A quick search on alternatives to Airbnb or the best Airbnb websites usually results in many guest-facing articles that include platforms your small hotel is probably already listed on (if not, add them to your list now). These include Booking.com, Expedia and Agoda who now all provide short-term rental listings in addition to hotel listings. It serves as a signal of where the industry is headed.

Through their affiliate networks, your property’s reach may already include sites you were not aware of; for example, if you have an Expedia Affiliate Network agreement in place, your rooms may already be listed on HomeAway or Vrbo. Both rank high in guest-facing lists of alternatives to Airbnb.

For the purpose of this post, we also explore the best alternative to Airbnb for small and boutique hotels, as well as B&Bs, to list their rooms alongside non-hotel inventory, with specific focus on regional differences and differentiating factors. 

Global Airbnb competitors

As the vacation rental market continues to evolve, a multitude of global platforms are emerging as strong Airbnb competitors. These platforms offer diverse opportunities for property owners to reach new audiences and diversify their bookings. Each brings a unique blend of features and target audiences, catering to a variety of traveller preferences. Here are four prominent platforms to consider:

1. Hopper

For those in search of millennial and Gen Z travellers, Hopper Hotels is the type of global platform to be seen on. List your rooms here, and you are in good company with 2 million other listings. Hopper Hotels is accessible exclusively via an app and the company has recently added Hopper Homes, meaning that its customer base is exploring a wide variety of travel solutions, including flights. Be aware that this is a price-sensitive audience: Hopper sends alerts to customers about price drops on their travel watch list.

2. HomeAway and Vrbo

HomeAway and Vrbo are both part of the Expedia group. Here you will find hotel listings of any size alongside their diverse range of short-term rentals, including private homes and apartments. By listing your rooms on Vrbo, they will automatically be distributed on HomeAway, too. 

3. TripAdvisor, Flipkey, HolidayLettings and HouseTrip

Beyond their traditional review platform, TripAdvisor offers rentals including hotels, private homes, apartments and more; through its acquisitions of companies such as Flipkey, HolidayLettings and HouseTrip it also shares some inventory. This may result in additional distribution for your property. 

4. Hostelworld

Perhaps counterintuitive to its name, Hostelworld lists more than hostels: it even provides a filter function on its site specifically for B&Bs, hotels and apartments. If you fall into those categories and are open to budget conscious travellers, this is the place to list and be found. 

Regional Airbnb alternatives

The vacation rental landscape is not only dominated by global giants. In fact, there are numerous regional platforms that serve as viable Airbnb alternatives, each with a unique focus and audience. 

Whether it’s a platform dedicated to the French-speaking market or a significant player in the Asian vacation rental sphere, these regional platforms offer a more localised approach to vacation rentals. Understanding these platforms can aid in formulating a more diversified and region-specific listing strategy. 

5. LeBonCoin

LeBonCoin is one of the largest players in the holiday rental market in France. Early in 2020 they supported hotels by making listings temporarily free, so consumers are used to finding hotels alongside other listings. Room inventory is within France only and marketed to a French-speaking audience.

6. Rakuten

For one of the largest holiday rental sites in Asia, especially Japan, head to Rakuten LIFULL STAY (vacation-stay.com). The platform has more than 100 million users and operates on a membership model. Rakuten also runs the Travel Exchange API, meaning that inventory of hotels is distributed onwards to other parties. With strong brand recognition in Asia, here you can be visible to Asian guests, while the platform does provide listings in more than 200 countries.

7. Despegar and Decolar

Travellers from Latin-America booking worldwide often use Despegar, which has expanded its accommodation offering across hostels, cottages, and apartments. In Brazil Despegar is known as Decolar. On both platforms, customers book flights and car rentals as part of a full travel solution.

8. Interhome

Interhome is a leading provider of holiday homes and vacation rentals in Europe. With a vast portfolio of properties in popular European destinations, Interhome offers a range of options for travellers.

Tips to find rental sites like Airbnb for small accommodation providers

Consider local or regional platforms

Not all your potential guests are browsing global platforms. Many people use regional or local platforms that cater to specific languages, currencies, and cultural preferences. Additionally, local platforms may have partnerships with local tourism boards or businesses, which can drive more traffic to your listing. Researching and listing on these platforms can help you tap into these niche markets.

Compare fee structure

Different platforms have different fee structures. Some might charge a flat annual fee, while others might take a percentage of each booking. Others still might have a mix of both. It’s important to understand how these fees might affect your profits. Be sure to read the fine print and understand exactly what you’re paying for.

Read reviews and testimonials

Reviews from other hosts can give you a sense of what it’s like to work with a given platform. Look for reviews that mention the platform’s reliability, ease of use, customer service, and effectiveness at bringing in bookings. Keep in mind that one or two negative reviews may not represent the overall experience.

Analyse listing visibility

Being on a platform where your listing gets lost among thousands of others can be counterproductive. You want to make sure that your property will be seen by potential guests. Look into how each platform sorts and displays listings. Some platforms might give preference to hosts who respond quickly to inquiries, have good reviews, or use professional photos, for example.

Assess customer service and support

Good customer support can be a lifesaver when something goes wrong. Check whether the platform has support available 24/7, and through what channels (phone, email, live chat, etc.). You might also want to test out the platform’s customer service to see how quickly and effectively they respond.

Seek recommendations

Reach out to other hosts or industry professionals for their recommendations. They might be able to share insights or experiences that aren’t obvious from the outside. Networking with other hosts, either in person or in online communities, can be a valuable source of information.

By Dean Elphick

Dean is the Senior Content Marketing Specialist of Little Hotelier, the all-in-one software solution purpose-built to make the lives of small accommodation providers easier. Dean has made writing and creating content his passion for the entirety of his professional life, which includes more than six years at Little Hotelier. Through content, Dean aims to provide education, inspiration, assistance, and, ultimately, value for small accommodation businesses looking to improve the way they run their operations (and live their life).