Hotels vs. Vacation Rentals Inspire

Hotels vs. Vacation Rentals Inspire

Trends in rental marketplaces vs. hotel bookings in the United States

Key Takeaways

Vacation Rentals are becoming increasingly popular alternatives for travelers and vacationers. These sharing economy sites, like AirBnB, HomeAway, VRBO, and others, saw an increase of 59% in monthly visits from August 2013 to August 2016. In this Inspire, we’ll explore interesting differences in traffic, search trends, and audiences amongst Rental sites, Hotel Aggregators (e.g. booking.com, hotels.com), and traditional Direct Hotel sites. Key findings include:

1) Growth of rental sites: Monthly visits to Rental sites have increased 70.3% during the last three years, whereas Hotel Aggregators decreased 7.9% and Direct Hotel sites decreased 3.6% over the same period.

2) Search trends: Searches to Rental sites tend to have a focus on beach and lake vacations, whereas specific searches to Direct Hotels skew more to vacation clubs and packages. Searches to Hotel Aggregator sites have a very strong focus on all-inclusive vacation options.

3) Gender differences: Visitors to vacation websites tend to skew female, especially on rental marketplace sites. Advertisers have a greater chance of effectively targeting these customers by focusing their efforts on overlapping industries and understanding the differences between males and females.

4) Channel opportunity: Rental sites receive a higher proportion of traffic from Social Media and Email, highlighting the importance to consumers of sharing potential properties with travel mates via these channels.

Seasonality of Demand

Monthly visits to rental sites increased 59% since 2013


The number of monthly visits to rental sites has increased 70% between August 2013 and August 206. Meanwhile, Hotel Aggregator site visits decreased 7.9% and Direct Hotel sites decreased 3.6%. If Vacation Rental sites continue to trend in this direction, they are likely to overtake Hotel Direct sites within the next 12 months.

All three accommodation sub-industries follow similar seasonal trends: peaking during the winter holidays and summer months. Rental sites have mostly remained below Direct Hotel sites; however, in January 2016, Rental sites peaked at the same share as Direct Hotels for the first time. And since the beginning of 2016, Rental sites have remained a strong competitor to Direct Hotel sites.

US Hotels 2016: Monthly Visits

Search Analysis: Destinations

Rental searches are more focused on beaches as a destination


While destination cities are spread evenly between all three of the accommodation industries, specific vacation searches can help differentiate what each segment is more focused on.

For instance, the Vacation Rentals industry has the highest share of searches mentioning “beach” and “lake” vacations. They are also, unsurprisingly, the most likely to be looking to rent a “home” or “house”. Direct Hotels see more searches focusing on vacation “club(s)” and packages, though it should be noted that variations of the term “vacation” are not used as often when searching for direct hotels. Interestingly, like Vacation Rentals, Aggregators are seeing a high share of visits mentioning “home(s)” and “by owner”, but their point of differentiation is the high share of vacation searches looking for “all inclusive”.

US Hotels 2016: Top Keywords

Audience Profiles: Demographics

Vacation Rentals sites skew more female


The graph below shows the age groups that visit each market, broken out by gender. While all three industries have a higher proportion of females within their audience, the Rentals audience has the highest proportion of female visitors, emphasizing the importance of targeting this demographic.

US Hotels 2016: Visitors Demographics

Search analysis: Vacation Interest


The AudienceView platform allows us to dig deeper into Male vs. female Vacation Renter segments to better understand their interests, attitudes, and opinions. While we know that females tend to dominate the booking of vacations, it turns out that they are also more likely to have very differing opinions when it comes to vacations. Female vacation renters are much more likely than men to agree that travel helps them be seen as unique and different than their friends. In fact, women vacation renters have stronger feelings regarding their travel preferences than men, in general.

US Hotels 2016: Statement Index

Audience Profiles: Online Behavior

Overlapping industry opportunities


Understanding where else your audience spends time online delivers insight into their lifestyles and interests, and can provide valuable information to inform best ad placements and partnerships.

In the tables below, for instance, we see that visitors to Rentals sits and Hotel Aggregators are more interested in Real Estate and Environment sites, something marketers to this audience may be able to use to generate more engaging messaging for ad campaigns.

US Hotel 2016: Overindexing Industries

Key Channel Drivers

Social sharing and email are key for Rentals


To understand the customer journey and differences in behavior, it’s important to know where sites receive traffic from. Analyzing this upstream share of visits to each sub-industry shows that Rentals sites, for instance, receive a higher share of their traffic from Social Media sites, which are increasingly linked to those offering and renting properties.

Along those lines, Vacation Rentals also see a higher proportion of their traffic come via Email Services, something which may be due to the fact that travelers seeking Rentals may be emailing property links to friends.

US Hotels 2016: Upstream