Airbnb and sustainable travel

Airbnb has published a study that provides an analysis of the impact that its flexible search options in Europe, such as ‘Categories’ and ‘I’m Flexible,’ which the booking platform has been rolling out over the course of the past two years, have had. According to the findings of the survey, the choices assist steer reservations away from some of Europe’s most overrun tourist attractions and peak travel periods in favour of more environmentally friendly travel trends.

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. The goal of these tools was to assist guests in discovering homes and communities that are located outside of heavily travelled tourist hotspots and at different times of the year. Currently, about one out of every twenty stays on Airbnb are booked utilising flexible search tools.

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Our goal is for Airbnb to contribute to the resolution of problems caused by the expansion of the tourism industry and to encourage environmentally responsible travel trends.

Nathan Blecharczyk, one of the founders of Airbnb and its Chief Strategy Officer, outlined the company’s “prosperous and responsible” strategy for its activities in the EU.

The findings of the first study to investigate the effects of adaptable search tools on dispersed travel are presented in the recently published research titled “How Airbnb Supports Sustainable Travel in Europe.” It reveals a movement in reservations away from a number of the most popular locations and toward those that are less well known, both in terms of the cities that are the destinations and the neighbourhoods inside those cities. In spite of a widespread return to travel patterns that existed before the epidemic, this tendency has not changed.

“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,” said Nathan Blecharczyk, Co-Founder of Airbnb and Chief Strategy Officer for the company. “Flexible search is 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 also “making it easier for anyone, anywhere to become a Host on Airbnb.”

According to the findings of the survey, guests who book their stays on Airbnb using flexible search tools do so at a lower frequency in the 20 most popular destinations in Europe (-17.5%), but at a higher frequency in less-visited towns rated outside Airbnb’s top 400 destinations (+35.5%). This is in comparison to guests who book their stays on Airbnb using traditional search methods.

When compared to standard searches on Airbnb, flexible search is helping to guide guests to locations around 5 miles further away from their initial planned location inside cities. Analyses conducted at the neighbourhood level of flexible search users in the cities of Amsterdam, Barcelona, Lisbon, London, Prague, and Rome reveal a constant trend away from booking in the most popular neighbourhoods in favour of reservations made on the outskirts of the cities or in other locations entirely. This shift can be seen in all of these cities.

Photo: Airbnb Newsroom

When using Airbnb’s flexible search feature, which gives users the option to add a location even if they don’t know the dates of their stay, guests are more likely to book outside of the top 10% of the most popular dates (a decrease of 7.3%), as well as book nights during the week (an increase of 5.7%).

In addition to this, the top 10 most visited cities on Airbnb in the EU in 2019, which include Paris, Barcelona, and Rome, accounted for 20% of all trips in Europe, however in 2022, they will only account for 14% of all trips in Europe. This is a significant decrease. When compared to the same time period in 2022, the number of people choosing to stay in rural areas rose by 55% between the first three quarters of 2019 and the current year.

In addition, the new data reveals that travellers are shifting their bookings away from the most popular places and toward those that are less frequented, both in urban and rural areas. This tendency is still going strong despite the resumption of travel patterns that existed before the epidemic. 

The findings of the survey suggest that visitors who used these search tools booked less frequently at one of the 20 most popular places on Airbnb in Europe, exhibiting a 17.5 percent fall in booking frequency when compared to the previous year. In addition, the number of bookings made by these guests in areas rated outside of Airbnb’s top destinations increased from 35.5 percent to a higher percentage, despite the fact that these places had less visitors. 

In addition, visitors who use Airbnb’s flexible search tool, which allows them to include a location without specifying a date, are more likely to make reservations outside of the top ten percent of the most booked dates, resulting in a decrease in the rates for these dates of 7.3%, and they are more likely to make reservations during the weekdays, with this trend increasing by 5.7%. 

The survey also finds that booking patterns have altered all around Europe, with flexible bookers staying outside of Amsterdam at a rate that is 32.5 percentage points higher than in the previous year. 

When compared to traditional bookers, visitors to Barcelona who make reservations using flexible tools have a greater likelihood of reserving accommodations in two of the city’s most popular areas: Ciutat Vella and Example. The occupancy rates in these two neighbourhoods have decreased by 7.1% and 13.4%, respectively. 

The similar thing occurred with visitors in Lisbon and London, where bookers were more inclined to stay outside of the city centre, with 42.6% and 29.6%, respectively, for each city. 

Flexible search is the most recent tech-driven solution that Airbnb has deployed to assist solve difficulties related with the expansion of tourism in Europe and elsewhere around the world. However, the platform has also incorporated additional tools in an effort to address these challenges.

1. Data sharing: The City Portal is a portal that Airbnb has developed specifically for governments so that they may access data, information, and enforcement tools related to Airbnb. The innovative technology, which is the first of its type, has been embraced by over 300 governments throughout the world, including 174 in Europe.

2. Tax Collection Airbnb has formed partnerships with various governments and tax agencies in order to streamline and make it easier for travellers to pay the various tourist taxes that are required in Europe and elsewhere in the world. As of the 31st of August 2022, according to new information that was made public on November 3rd, Airbnb’s tax cooperation has resulted in more than $6 billion of tourist tax revenues being collected and sent throughout the world. This figure includes $573 million (€511 million) in the EU.

3. Being a good neighbour: Airbnb made an announcement about a month ago that it will supply free noise sensors to Hosts in over 60 different countries. These noise sensors will link with the platform’s messaging feature and quickly warn Hosts if the noise level exceeds a particular threshold. Following the completion of a recent pilot in Prague, hosts and guests were able to resolve one hundred percent of noise alarms between them within twenty minutes of their discovery.

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