Today these two companies are the world’s largest platforms for travellers to book individually-owned private accommodation.
Here I am going to simply examine each one in terms of how it operates its system. I will NOT be looking at the strengths and weaknesses of each – that will come in another blog very soon.
Airbnb. Now all the rage and the current “hot” talking point, it began in 2008 as the brainchild of three guys with IT backgrounds, with the idea of setting up a site where anyone with a spare room in their house could offer it for rent to make some extra money.
Today this site claims 3,000,000+ listings in 65,000 cities (are there that many cities?) in 191+ countries There are still the single rooms for rent, often with a shared bathroom. This is of course the simple B and B concept which has been in operation in the UK and Europe for decades. However, in addition Airbnb now has a wide variety of accommodations to offer, many of which are self catering apartments, cottages and villas. Airbnb also claims to also offer 1,400+ castles (are there that many castles?).
Airbnb allows listings on their site as long as they meet the following criteria:
The space is only used for lodging
The space, if a mobile home, sailboat, yacht, or other vessel, will be semi-permanently attached to a set location during the reservation
The space is accurately represented, located where the host says it is, and is bookable by the host
Listings that don’t meet these criteria include:
Motor vehicles or watercraft intended for mobile use
Any listing whose primary purpose isn’t serving as a lodging
It is a simple concept where owners/hosts supply all the information about their property including photos, set the price, cancellation conditions, cleaning fees, and security deposit. Airbnb charges the host a 3% fee when an on-line booking is made, and the guest pays Airbnb a Service Fee ranging from 6 to 12% depending on the type of property. A cleaning fee of about 5% of the rental is charged by some hosts. All fees and charges are shown on the page of each property.
Prospective guests can communicate directly with the owner before booking to ask any questions, or use the Instant Book facility if offered by the owner. The owner receives payment from Airbnb 24 hours after the guest’s checkin.
Cancellation fees are spelt out quite clearly on the front page listing of each property, and how far in advance they are charged. They range from Flexible – full refund up to 1 day prior to arrival, through Moderate and Strict to Super Strict – 50% refund up till 60 days prior then 100%. The cancellation fee which applies varies from property to property and is selected by the owner.
After a stay, each property can be reviewed by guests on-line, and many do. But what is unusual is that the hosts can also rate the guests so that future hosts can see a profile of a prospective guest and hence gives them the option of refusing!
In conclusion, travellers should be aware that Airbnb is just a massive listing/search/booking facility and they do not inspect any of the 3,000,000+ properties on their site.
HomeAway. The company began in 2005 in the USA, and today offers over 2 million homes in 190 countries. Over the years it has bought out many similar operators in other countries, and its 12 brands cover many countries and include HomeAway(USA), VacationRentals.com (USA), Owners Direct in UK/Europe, Abritel HomeAway in France, Stayz in Australia and Bookabach in New Zealand.
In 2016 Expedia Inc ( Expedia, Wotif, Travelocity, Hotels.com, Trivago etc) paid USD 3.9 billion to purchase HomeAway to ensure that it has the firepower to go head to head with Airbnb in this growing market.
Homeaway claims 2,000,000+ what it calls ” Vacation” properties and it differs significantly from Airbnb in that it offers ONLY fully self contained apartments, cottages and villas which it calls “homes”, and is not involved in single room rentals like its opposition.
HomeAway charges the host a 5% fee when an on-line booking is made and and the guest pays HomeAway a Service Fee ranging from 5 to 12% depending on the type of property. All fees and charges are shown on the page of each property.
Cancellation fees are not easy to find and you have to proceed past the first page to make a booking before you find them under Terms and Conditions. The cancellation fee which applies varies from property to property and is selected by the owner.
In conclusion travellers should be aware that HomeAway like Airbnb is just a massive listing/search/booking facility and they do not inspect any of the 2,000,000+ properties on their site.
In a future blog I’ll go into considerable detail about booking privately owned properties, and give you the “Insider” information and advice on what to look out for. I was for many years the Australian representative for the largest cottage rental company in Britain as well as a villa rental company in France. I have also been involved in the rental of privately owned apartments in London for over 30 years. So I do know what I’m talking about.
I just love staying at self catering properties, but there are some basic questions you need to ask before you book – I’ll tell you exactly what they are, and tell you a few funny stories as well! Look out for my blog soon.