A first-ever analysis of the impacts of Airbnb’s flexible search features – including ‘Categories’ and ‘I’m Flexible’ – shows they are diverting bookings away from Europe’s most saturated tourist hotspots and peak travel dates in support of more sustainable travel trends, according to a company report released at Web Summit today by Nathan Blecharczyk, Airbnb Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer.
Airbnb launched its flexible search tools ‘Categories’ (May 2022), ‘I’m Flexible’ (May 2021) and ‘I’m (Even More) Flexible’ (November 2021) to create a new way to search for travel and provide a tech-driven solution to mass tourism by helping guests discover homes and communities beyond saturated tourist hotspots and at different times of the year. Around 1 in 20 stays on Airbnb are currently booked using flexible search features.
The new report ‘How Airbnb Supports Sustainable Travel In Europe’ includes the first analysis of the impacts of Airbnb’s flexible search tools on dispersing travel. It shows a shift in bookings from several top destinations to less popular destinations—both across destination cities, and across neighbourhood destinations within cities. This trend is continuing despite a general resumption of pre-pandemic travel patterns. Early insights and highlights include:
- Guests using flexible search tools book less often in the 20 most popular destinations on Airbnb in Europe (-17.5%) and more often in less-visited communities ranked outside Airbnb’s top 400 destinations (+35.5%), when compared to guests booking via traditional search on Airbnb.
- Guests booking via Airbnb’s flexible search tool—that provides an option to include a location without dates—are also more likely to book outside the top 10% most popular dates (-7.3%) and are more likely to book nights on weekdays (+5.7%).
Flexible search is also helping to redirect guests approximately 5 miles farther away from their initial intended location within cities, compared to traditional searchers on Airbnb. Neighbourhood-level analyses of flexible search users for the cities of Amsterdam, Barcelona, Lisbon, London, Prague and Rome show a consistent shift from booking in the most popular neighbourhoods in favour of bookings on the outskirts of the cities or in other areas altogether:
- In Amsterdam, flexible bookers more often stay outside the city’s inner limits (+32.5%) compared to traditional bookers.
- In Barcelona, flexible bookers are less likely to book in the two most popular areas of Example and Ciutat Vella than traditional bookers (respectively, -7.1% and -13.4%)
- In Lisbon, flexible bookers are more likely to stay outside of the city centre compared to traditional bookers (+42.6%) and less likely to stay in the most touristic districts of Santa Maria Major and Mesericordia (respectively, -20.1% and -15.8%).
- In London, flexible bookers are more likely to stay outside of the City of London (+29% compared to traditional bookers) and less likely to stay in the most popular districts of Westminster and Camden (respectively, -17.8% and -23.9%).
- In Prague, flexible bookers are less likely to book in the busy central District 1 area than traditional bookers (by -21.4%).
- In Rome, flexible bookers are less likely to book in the busy central District 1 area than traditional bookers (by -8.1%).
“We want Airbnb to be part of the solution to challenges associated with the growth of tourism, and to support sustainable travel trends,” said Nathan Blecharczyk, Airbnb Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer. “We are encouraged by the early insights into the impacts of flexible search, which are spreading guests and the benefits of tourism beyond busy tourist hotspots. Airbnb will continue to invest in the growth of flexible search to support the responsible and sustainable growth of travel, while making it easier for anyone, anywhere to become a Host on Airbnb.”
Nathan Blecharczyk, Airbnb Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer
Tech-driven solutions to Europe’s tourism challenges
Flexible search is Airbnb’s latest tech-driven solution to help address challenges associated with the growth of tourism in Europe and across the world:
- Sharing data – The City Portal is Airbnb’s custom-built platform for governments to access data, information and enforcement tools on Airbnb. The first-of-its-kind tool has been adopted by more than 300 governments globally, including 174 in Europe.
- Collecting tax – Airbnb has partnered with governments and tax authorities to automate and simplify the payment of tourist taxes in Europe and across the world. New data released today shows that Airbnb’s tax collaborations have seen more than $6 billion of tourist tax revenues collected and remitted globally, including $573 million (€511 million) in the EU, as of 31 August 2022.
- Good neighbours – Airbnb last month announced that it will provide free noise sensors to Hosts in more than 60 countries that integrate with the platform’s messaging tool and alert Hosts instantly if noise exceeds a certain level. A recent pilot in Prague enabled Hosts and guests to solve 100 percent of noise alerts between them within 20 minutes of detection.
Sustainable travel on Airbnb
The early analysis of flexible search on Airbnb highlights an acceleration of already sustainable, decentralised travel trends on Airbnb in Europe, which are primarily driven by European guests. The profile of guests using Airbnb in Europe is more European than at any point in Airbnb’s history. As Airbnb’s guest profile in Europe has become more European, travel has become more dispersed. In 2019, the top 10 most visited cities on Airbnb in the EU—including Paris, Barcelona and Rome—accounted for 20% of all trips in Europe, whereas they account for just 14% of trips in 2022. The popularity of rural stays has also grown, increasing by 55 percent when comparing the first three quarters of 2019 to the same period in 2022.
Notes to editors
In the two years since the pandemic, Airbnb launched ‘I’m Flexible’ and ‘Categories’ to create a new way for people to search for travel. In May 2021, we introduced I’m Flexible so guests can be more flexible about where or when they are traveling – and in November, we expanded with ‘I’m (even more) Flexible’, adding a date range of up to 12 months with a total of nearly 30 categories of unique stays. In May 2022, we launched ‘Categories’, allowing guests to search for specific locations or search more generally, such as for “Europe,” and browse over 50 categories of unique places to stay – from vineyards to yurts.