Expedia does it. So does Booking Holdings, TripAdvisor, Vacasa, Red Awning, and several of the online travel agencies’ sub-brands such as Agoda, Vrbo, Hotels.com, and Holiday Lettings.
But over the weekend, when Google debuted its new four-pack stack of vacation rentals in Google Search, a feature that’s a gateway to Google’s travel page, including vacation rentals and other travel businesses, notably absent from the mix of usual participants was Airbnb.
With short-term rental giant Airbnb intending to go public in 2020, and considering one of its selling points is its brand awareness and all of the direct traffic that it attracts without having to pay billions of dollars annually to Google, a critical decision will be whether Airbnb should participate in Google vacation rentals.
Over the last six months, according to SimilarWeb, Airbnb got about 60 percent of its desktop and mobile traffic direct without having to pay Google or other search engines. In contrast, Booking.com had much higher traffic numbers, but only about 45 percent of it came direct, according to SimilarWeb, although Booking.com claims that figure should be higher than 50 percent.
While many investors and people inside and outside the travel industry debate which company, Airbnb or Booking.com, will eventually ascend to the top of the heap in short-term rentals, a credible argument can be made that in the long run, barring regulatory interference, Google may be Airbnb’s biggest threat.
After all, Expedia CEO Mark Okerstrom, for example, has been open about the fact that Google is its strongest competitor.
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