Airbnb is No Longer the King of Short-Term Rentals...

Ariel Ariel
May. 20

This is a single insight from This Week in Apps #114 - Lots of Turbulence Ahead. Check out the full article for more insights.

Airbnb has made an amazing comeback in the last month. After having downloads disappear due to lockdowns in early 2020, the short-term rental platform saw downloads rally in 2022, hitting new all-time highs.

But... a competing app has seen downloads rising as well, and in the last few months, has been consistently beating Airbnb in the US.

Vrbo, the "Wish version of short-term rentals", as some on the internet dubbed it, looks and operates much like Airbnb. The site isn't as sleek (especially not when compared to the new Airbnb) and there aren't as many listings, but that's not stopping Vrbo, which is owned by Expedia, from outpacing Airbnb in terms of downloads.

In January, the pair saw a similar number of downloads in the US. Our estimates put daily downloads at an average of 28,000 back in January.

Fast forward to May, and daily downloads peaked at more than double for Airbnb, hitting 68,000. But Vrbo was way ahead, peaking at 120,000 downloads just a few days before. That's a lot of downloads!

The obvious trend is obvious, people want to leave their houses and apartments and live in other people's houses and apartments for a while. I looked at a few other real-world apps that are seeing massive growth in downloads for the same reason.

But the less obvious trend here is that Airbnb has competition for the first time in a long time. Pre-pandemic, Vrbo was seeing about a third of Airbnb's downloads on a daily basis, and that trend didn't veer off at all. Vrbo overtook Airbnb for short periods of time in 2020 and 2021, but those were very short. This time it's different.

It could be that demand is simply higher than Airbnb's supply or that Vrbo is spending more on ads, but overall, it means Airbnb is no longer the only game in town. I hope that means we'll get better customer service.

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Tagged: #travel

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