Booking.com and Airbnb are raiding each other’s territories. With their different roots, Booking.com needs to grow short-term rentals in the U.S. while Airbnb seeks to expand in Europe and elsewhere internationally.
Booking Holdings Chief Financial Officer David Goulden said this week that the flagship Booking.com brand launched its short-term rental business as a supplement to hotels “15-plus years” ago, which is roughly around the time Airbnb got going in San Francisco.
But Booking.com’s business line revolved mostly around apartment hotels in Europe while Airbnb focused on owners and tenants renting out apartments in U.S. cities.
Airbnb, as a private company, became a break-out leader in part because it didn’t worry as much about local regulations. Booking.com, as a public company, was more cautious.
Short-Term Rentals U.S. Versus Europe
Booking.com’s short-term rental business – which it still refers to as “alternative accommodations” – remains heavily weighted toward its European base. Goulden went into more detail than usual at an investor conference earlier this week about the company’s Europe-U.S. disparity.
In the third quarter, he said, one-third of Booking.com’s bookings came from short-term rentals, and the segment grew 24%. That was two times faster than the growth of its core hotels business.
In Europe, the short-term rental business is even more than one-third of the mix – “a fair amount” higher, Goulden said. In the U.S., it’s a “a fair amount lower.”
“The main reason is that we’ve been doing alternative accommodations in Europe for 15-plus years, and we are several years behind that in terms of just time of evolution in the U.S.,” Goulden said. “So we’re probably seven or eight years behind that in terms of when we started building out one versus the other.”
Goulden doesn’t expect Booking.com’s U.S. short-term rental business to take another seven or eight years to catch up because it now has more experience.
U.S. Short-Term Rental Listings Growing Faster
Booking.com’s U.S. listings grew faster in the third quarter than the company’s 9% overall growth in that sector, and it outpaced every other region, he said.
“The U.S. continues to be a big – a key focus for acquisition” of listings, Goulden said. He added that the company will continue to aim to make the U.S. its fastest-growing market for supply.
Over the years, Booking.com has opted to sign on property managers who may have hundreds or thousands of listings, as opposed to signing on individual hosts.
Booking.com doesn’t break out listings by region, but Goulden said there were 7.2 million listings in total in the third quarter.
Airbnb Wants to Spur International Growth
While Booking.com strives to grow its U.S. short-term rental business, Airbnb is focused on growing its business outside North America, and announced looming changes in its executive ranks this week to foster that growth.
In the announcement about the C-suite changes, including Dave Stephenson’s transition from chief financial officer to chief business officer, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said: “As Chief Business Officer, Dave will be across all aspects of our strategy to expand beyond the core. This includes driving international expansion, growing global host supply (across existing and new businesses), and leading all business and corporate development activities at Airbnb.”