The recently released 2019 U.S. Travel Trends Report from WEX and Mastercard reveals recent trends in the accommodation preferences of American travelers.
According to the report, hotels continue to be the preferred choice of accommodation when traveling. 74% of those surveyed said they preferred staying in hotels because everything is taken care of. However, survey takers also expressed an openness to alternative accommodations, such as renting a room through Airbnb. 44% said these types of accommodations allowed them to afford travel and 39% said that such arrangements made them “feel like a local.”
The survey revealed generational differences in preferences. The younger generations expressed more openness to using sharing economy services. 62% of Generation Z respondents said they were open to these services, as did 56% of Millennials. Less than half of Gen X survey takers felt the same (47%) and only 30% of Boomers would consider an alternative accommodation.
These responses show that nearly half of all travelers overall may choose between hotels and other types of accommodations on a trip-by-trip basis. Renting a room from the sharing economy may appeal to travelers when traveling to certain locales, when traveling in groups, or while on a budget. Other times, the central location of a hotel along with the amenities provided are preferred.
As alternative accommodations have grown steadily in popularity, OTAs have expanded their offerings to compete with Airbnb and others. Skift recently compared the number of alternative accommodation listings on various OTA sites. Booking.com claims to have 5.5 million such listings on their site, matching the number on Airbnb. Expedia, which now owns HomeAway, has nearly 2 million listings. Continued growth is expected and the WEX report predicts that OTAs will shift their offerings to include more discounts, rewards, and reviews in order to make travel more affordable and locally driven (for more on this topic see our previous article – Getting Into Each Other’s Business: Airbnb, OTAs & Hotels).
For the consumer, OTAs expanded offerings make it convenient and easy to book either hotels or alternative accommodation in one place. They can also offer an added layer of trust and security not always available through other channels. OTAs that use the merchant model of payment in combination with virtual card numbers (VCNs) can provide travelers with a secure method of payment while protecting their data as well. In this model, the consumer pays the OTA directly, rather than passing along their personal card information or bank details to an unknown property owner.
The OTA then uses secure, one-time-use VCNs to pay the property owner, with the ability to set controls that limit when and how much can be charged. The virtual payments solution is a win-win for both customers and providers—helping to protect both parties against fraud and misuse.
Payments fraud in the travel industry is a growing concern. Fraudsters have heavily targeted both hotels and the sharing economy, making travel consumers wary. Travel companies that can both provide a wealth of accommodations options along with a safe and secure method of payment can gain the trust, and loyalty, of travelers (for more see: Data Breaches at Major Hotel Chains Hit the Travel Industry).