The advent of vacation rental sites such as Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway have been a game changer for the traditional players – hotel web sites and hotel aggregators (e.g. Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia.com). Over the past three years vacation rental traffic has grown by 70% while hotel aggregators and direct hotel websites show steady declines. A thirst for authentic, outdoor and meaningful vacations seem to be at least part of the motivation behind this shift.
In this post we will explore who is behind the growing numbers of visitors to rental sites, and what really motivates them. Marketers will learn where to find these consumers and what messages will resonate with them.
Who is Visiting Rental Sites?
To get an idea of who is behind the site visits to travel accommodation sites, we can take a look at data compiled by Hitwise’s AudienceView which tracks search and web traffic data and trends. For the four weeks ending Sept. 17, 2016, 58% of the visits came from females vs. 42% from men—a heavy female skew, which is common across travel sites.
Visits to rental sites in particular tend to attract younger women compared to other travel booking sites: 31% of visitors to rental sites are women aged 18-44, versus 28% for direct hotel sites and 29% for hotel aggregators.
What Drives the Search
Looking at the attitudes of vacation renters, broken down by gender, reveals an interesting story of what drives women travelers in particular.
The two statements that are most striking examples are “I take vacations that help me differentiate me from my friends” and “I try to go somewhere different every time”, these statements skew very heavily female and under-index strongly for men.
In fact, women tend to have much stronger opinions about travel altogether. Women see their vacation choices as forms of personal expression, which help define their image, particularly when it comes to being unique and spontaneous. For travel brands, this reflects an important consideration in the social media era, where consumer’s self image is increasingly defined by sharing Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram experiences.
Women spend more time engaging with and lingering on travel sites, perhaps because selecting a travel destination or accommodation is more of an emotional decision. Meanwhile, men tend to approach it more practically and demonstrate less personal investment in finding the perfect, unique experience.
Where Can you Find These Travelers?
Looking at Hitwise data, we see that vacation rental and aggregator customers have much in common—they are more likely to visit sites related to:
- Real estate
- The environment
- Office supplies
Although rental sites and hotel aggregator visitors have similarities, there are notable differences in customer journey during their last stop before landing on a travel site. Rental site visitors are much more likely to come from a social networking site or from email than visitors to aggregators or hotel sites.
For rental sites, much of this email and social traffic may be derived from consumers sharing potential rental homes with their travel-mates; this provides a rich opportunity for developing marketing strategies around more simplified social posting, email sharing and perhaps “refer a friend” email discounts. Hotel aggregators, meanwhile, tend to get a higher percentage of traffic from search engines — not surprising given the more transactional nature of those sites.
By understanding the differences behind male and female travelers, and personal motivations that drive their vacation choices, marketers can craft more impactful and efficient marketing campaigns to tell stories that connect with target audiences more powerfully.
This is blog post is excerpted from a free travel report produced by Hitwise, you can learn more about the shifting trends and audiences engaging with travel and hotel sites here: GET FULL REPORT.