Travel Weekly Consumer Trends 2016

Peer-to-peer: Youth drive growth of use of services like Uber, Airbnb

Younger adults have been driving a surge in the use of peer-to-peer travel services such as Airbnb and Uber during the past year, according to Travel Weekly's 2016 Consumer Trends Survey.

Of the more than 1,800 U.S. travelers polled in the survey, 36% said they had used at least one peer-to-peer or sharing economy service at some point, a jump from 10% a year earlier. About a quarter of those surveyed had used Uber, while 12% used Airbnb. Ride-hailing service Lyft and vacation-rental service HomeAway were used by 8% and 7% of those polled, respectively.

The results reflect what continues to be both an age-based and income-driven divide when it comes to usage of peer-to-peer services.

Travelers between the ages of 21 and 34 are more than three times as likely to use a peer-to-peer service for lodging or transportation as those 55 and older, while adults earning more than $75,000 per year were more than twice as likely to purchase services through an Airbnb or Uber as less-wealthy travelers.

The report also found that 66% of those who used the services of a travel agent in the past 12 months also used a shared-economy service, with Uber topping the list at 48%.

The results dovetail with other recent research that reflects both the increased use of home-based accommodations services such as Airbnb and the younger demographic that typically uses Uber and Lyft. The percentage of internet-using U.S. travelers who said they typically used a home-rental website when shopping for their next trip was 18% last year, Phocuswright said in a report released earlier this month.

While that figure is less than a third of the 60% who shop travel through OTAs, it's double what it was in 2013.
The largest U.S. peer-to-peer services are looking to expand their reach beyond the core of younger leisure travelers by making it easier for business travelers to book services. In July, Airbnb announced partnerships with travel management companies American Express Global Business Travel, BCD Travel and Carlson Wagonlit Travel. That same month, Uber and the corporate travel expense-management company Concur said they were expanding their partnership to enable better expense tracking and easier ride-hailing bookings. Uber bookings tracked by Concur have more than tripled in the past year.

Granted, the percentage of those surveyed by Travel Weekly who used a home-sharing service within the past year (4%) was dwarfed by the number of those who stayed in a hotel (38%).

Sarah Taylor with All Set Concierge, an affiliate of Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Montecito Village Travel, a Virtuoso agency, suggested that the disparity indicated that peer-to-peer services might not yet apply to the mainstream traveler, since many still want the security and service standards of a traditional hotel.

"There are still a lot of travelers out there who want to be taken care of, and you can't really get that with an Airbnb," Taylor said.

Still, she allowed that some of her U.S. clients are starting to branch out, especially when given the opportunity to travel to Central or South America, where the strengthening dollar allows for a more posh home-based rental experience and enough cash left over to pay for amenities such as an on-site chef.

"Your dollar can go a little further," Taylor said. "When you rent a home, it can be a luxury."

And as Phocuswright found, many people use both: The percentage of U.S. online hotel shoppers who cross-shopped with Airbnb more than tripled between July 2014 and February 2015, reaching about 15%.

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