Much has been written about how online accommodation platform Airbnb has disrupted the tourism industry with its ‘share-economy’ business model but the latest data from the Australian front contains disturbing news for agents.
New Roy Morgan data reveals that San Francisco-based Airbnb continues to wow Australian travellers. More than eight in every 10 Aussie holiday-goers who used Airbnb in the last 12 months would consider doing so again for their next trip, a higher proportion than any other travel agent or booking service.
But first, some context: 38% of Australians use a travel agent (including booking sites and tour operators) at least once in an average 12 months. Flight Centre (used by 9% of the population) is still flying the flag for bricks-and-mortar travel agencies in top spot, just ahead of online accommodation booking website, Booking.com (8%).
Wotif.com (5%) is the third-most popular travel agent, with Airbnb (4%) nipping at its heels. Question is, can they expect return business from these customers?
In the case of Airbnb, almost certainly: 83% of holiday-goers who used Airbnb in the past 12 months would consider doing so again, ahead of 76% of Flight Centre customers and 75% of Booking.com customers. Seven in every 10 people who used Wotif.com would consider booking through them again on their next holiday.
Top 10 travel agents with highest likelihood of return business
Expedia.com.au (75%) and Agoda (74%) can also be confident of some return business from recent customers, while Helloworld (73%) and Escape Travel (71%) were the only other bricks-and-mortar travel agents in the Top 10.
Since 2014, when Roy Morgan Research last reported on this topic, there have been some noteworthy developments. Airbnb and Helloworld are new entrants to the Top 10 travel agents with the highest likelihood of return business, as is hotel booking site Trivago (67% of their customers report that they’d consider using them again next time).
Meanwhile, STA Travel (62%, down from 73%), Hotels.com (62%, down from 69%) and Zuji (64%, down from 66%) have lost considerable ground since 2014.
Commenting on the findings, Roy Morgan Research’s industry communications director, Norman Morris, says that “regardless of how many customers a travel agency gets through its doors (or website)” what ultimately matters is whether these same customers are satisfied enough to use the agency for their next holiday.
“As the latest Roy Morgan figures show, the ever-popular Flight Centre can count on more than three-quarters of its recent customers coming back for more. Meanwhile, Airbnb is impressing its customers so much that almost 85% are likely to return!
“Having just launched their brand-spanking new Airbnb Trips initiative, which offers holiday activities such as tours or culinary experiences, they are clearly planning to expand their influence even further, encroaching on more conventional travel agency territory.
“Nearly 80% of all holiday-goers who used a travel agent in the last 12 months say they’d consider using one for their next holiday too: encouraging news for industry players, if they play their cards right. What’s more, a customer satisfied enough with a travel agency to use it again is also likely to be a good source of word-of-mouth promotion, recommending it to any friends or family planning a holiday – a kind of knock-on effect.”
Morris said that people from the inner-city dwelling, high-earning “New School Cool” persona were 165% more likely than the average Aussie to use Airbnb on their next trip, attracted no doubt by its ‘hip’ factor as well as its innovative approach to holiday accommodation.
“In contrast, Helloworld holds particular appeal (twice the national average) for “Rural Rewards”: mostly older, conservative couples based in the country and enjoying their new-found freedom as empty nesters. This group would appreciate Helloworld’s bricks-and-mortar stores, and its full-service capabilities, spanning flights, accommodation, holiday activities and even cruises.”
Edited by Peter Needham