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July 10, 2019

Airbnb: What the UK Actually Thinks of the Fairytale Brand

by Fiona Laughton

We asked 1000 people in the UK what they associate with  Airbnb and if they would consider using them. Here's the insights into Airbnb brand perception.

Airbnb began as a fairytale startup story. In 2007, with no investors and in thousands of dollars of credit card debt, the unemployed co-founders decided they needed to make some extra cash in order to pay their rent. Noticing all the accommodation in their city was booked out due to a conference, they decided to rent out the one commodity they had available - their spare room.

After noticing a gap in the market, they decided to buy a few air mattresses and set up ‘Air Bed and Breakfast’. They started charging guests a room rate which included breakfast. This style of accommodation was hardly innovative but no one had ever brought this idea to scale on a global platform. And so, Airbnb was born. But how does brand perception for Airbnb stand today?

Over the years the brand Airbnb became so successful the brand name was brought into the everyday language. Etymologists refer to the practice of verbing as “anthimeria” i.e. you no longer rent out your spare room, you ‘Airbnb it’. Airbnb was the travelers dream, offering amazing accommodation, in great locations and with affordable pricing. For hosts, it was an excellent way to make money and meet with travelers from all over the world. What Airbnb offered solved economic, practical and social problems.

As of January 2019, Airbnb has a net worth of $US38 Billion and over 3 million properties on the market. However, this is leaving a sour taste in the mouth of residents, who, despite enjoying the benefits of a tourism boom, are experiencing the negative impact as they are priced out of the long-term rental market by holiday rental real estate investors and are seeing their once unique and residential neighborhoods overrun with a ‘Disneyfication’ of tourism.

Does this mixed press effect views of Airbnb? We wanted to know how many people still had a positive view of the company. We asked 1000 people in the UK what they associate with the Airbnb company brand and if they would consider using them. The results for Airbnb brand perception are here.

Airbnb Brand Perception

Airbnb Brand Consideration

We provided consumers with a list of travel booking platforms and asked “which of the following brands would you consider using?” Here are the answers for frequent travelers broken down by age.

Overall, most travelers would consider using Airbnb. Results do indicate there is a slight drop with age but nothing remarkably drastic.

Out of curiosity, let’s compare those numbers to the Hotel Tonight. Hotel Tonight is another platform offering discounted accommodation but with a focus on hotels.

As you can see, there is a big drop in comparison to Airbnb. Therefore, it is safe to say that frequent travelers of all ages would prefer to book accommodation with Airbnb rather than Hotel Tonight.

Airbnb Brand Associations

Now let’s look at these audiences again for Airbnb and see what percentage of audiences agree with some positive images of the brand.

There are no real changes across the different age groups regarding the positive terms we provided. However, considering the high percentage of respondents who indicated they would consider using Airbnb, the percentage of respondents associating the positive terms in the list with the brand are surprisingly low. Is this where we can see negative press as having an impact? Respondents would consider Airbnb but are not entirely sure of its appeal, quality, value, reliability, and trustworthiness.

Let’s check our hotel friends again to see if people have more faith in traditional accommodation. Note: just the hotels are traditional, the concept of Hotel Tonight still somewhat new.

Like with Airbnb, we don’t see changes across age for Hotel Tonight. However, Hotel Tonight performs better in high quality, reliability, and trustworthiness - areas Airbnb perhaps should consider working on.


So, there we have it, the insights into Airbnb's brand perception. When it first launched, Airbnb was the travelers dream. And in many ways, it still is. A very high percentage of respondents across all ages would consider using the brand, much more than the hotel booking platform, Hotel Tonight. On the flip side, though, more people find Hotel Tonight as high quality, reliable and trustworthy.

It seems that while Airbnb has successively grown itself into a massive brand, there is still some room to market itself as an alternative to more traditional accommodation i.e. hotels. It will be an interesting journey to follow as we are in no doubt that the Airbnb brand build will be stopping anytime soon.

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