As peer to peer travel companies become more popular, the holes in traditional travel search engine results get larger and larger. For example, by some measures, AirBnB serves more guests than Hilton. However, when you search for a place to stay in New York City on Priceline/Expedia/Kayak, you’re not shown listings from the largest single source of places to stay in New York City (Airbnb). This is true for other cities, and assuming room-sharing/car-sharing become more popular, it will only get worse.
The comparison isn’t 1-to-1; Airbnb and Flightcar are the only 2 peer to peer services I’ve used with any frequency, and both require a little bit of coordination/human interaction to use. For Airbnb you only request a room, the owner approves you. And for Flightcar, you have to coordinate pickups and dropoffs, which require a phone call. This contrasts with booking a room at the Hilton, which I can do without interacting with a human. Additionally, with the Hilton, I know what I’m getting. Sometimes that’s an advantage (when you meet a nice host on Airbnb) and sometimes it’s not (getting a dirty Flightcar). That being said, most folks are familiar with crashing with a friend or borrowing a friend’s wheels, which are roughly analogous to Airbnb and Flightcar. Many times when I travel (especially traveling for pleasure, not business) I’m not looking for a hotel specifically. I just want a nice place to stay. For the (growing) proportion of travelers who are indifferent, or want something specific hotels don’t provide (eg a particular neighborhood, price break, or more social experience), a single way to search all the available places to stay, is valuable.
From my understanding, there are a few reasons why integrated peer-to-peer travel search hasn’t happened yet.
- Scale - most peer to peer travel services are pretty new, and thus far only Airbnb/Homeaway are large enough to register.
- Economics - Kayak/Expedia get paid when a hotel room is reserved. AirBnb/VRBO/OneFineStay have yet to work this out
- Technology - the necessary work to integrate/make booking seamless hasn’t been done yet. This is arguably the easiest challenge to overcome.
The benefits are clear:
- For Travelers: Book and plan trips faster, spend more time enjoying your vacation.
- For Search Engines: More revenue as more folks book rooms and vacation packages through them.
- For Peer To Peer Travel Companies: Faster growth and more revenue as they are exposed to a more mainstream audience more used to searching Priceline, Kayak or Expedia.