When it comes to marketing vacation rental properties, it’s easy for two top brands to spark debate: Airbnb vs. Booking.com.

With four million and five million listings respectively, both companies are among the leading channels for travelers looking for short-term rentals.

But which site is best for your channel management strategy?

As a property manager or vacation rental owner, deciding which channels to advertise on can take a bit of trial and error. Let’s take a look at each site’s fees, instant booking requirements, and what it takes to have a top-rated property.

Who does each site appeal to?

While both Airbnb and Booking.com reach a diverse group of people, their audiences do have their distinctions.

Airbnb’s audience has a sweet spot: U.S.-based millennials
Airbnb has had a significant impact on the short-term rental industry, particularly in the U.S., so one of the company’s primary markets isn’t too unexpected: millennials account for approximately 60 percent of guests who’ve booked accomodations through the site, and more than half of the site’s traffic comes from U.S.-based travelers.

Airbnb has recently expanded from the private accommodations they started with to other categories, such as Airbnb for Work and Experiences. And it’s starting to branch out from shared spaces into more diverse inventory such as small hotels and luxury properties.

This means the number and type of properties available on Airbnb is on the rise — and like Booking.com, that means competition. But if what you have to offer fits into Airbnb’s efforts to have a larger presence in markets such as business travel, you could get exposure to a whole new audience.

Booking.com has the advantage of size and longevity
Amsterdam-based Booking.com is the third largest e-commerce website in the world, offering not just accommodations but flights, car rentals, and taxi services. It’s been in the travel business for more than two decades and has a particularly strong presence in the European market.

And vacation rentals aren’t the only type of units on offer. When someone searches for accommodations on Booking.com, vacation rentals are integrated with units from hotels, homestays, bed and breakfasts, hostels, and even boats. While this adds competition, it also has the interesting effect of introducing vacation rentals to guests who may not have considered them an option before.

Booking.com either owns or has partnered with a number of niche regional listing sites, such as bedandbreakfast.eu and tourister.ru, which can help you gain visibility and potential bookings from new audiences.

Show me the money

When it comes to investing in any marketing channel there’s one thing that’s bound to grab your attention: whether it’s worth the money. That means fees and commissions - and who pays them - are a key consideration, and they vary by channel.

Airbnb and Booking.com commission fees and channel management comparison

Airbnb’s fees
For Airbnb, host service fees (aka what you pay) run 3-5%. Fees are typically on the lower end of that scale, but they can increase based on regional factors or if you have a Super Strict cancellation policy (used by invitation only, and only in special circumstances). Guests pay a service fee of 0-20%, depending on aspects such as the cost of the reservation, the length of their stay, and characteristics of the home they’re booking.

Booking.com’s fees
Booking.com does not charge the guest a commission. Instead, hosts pay a fee of 15-20%, depending on the level of service the host chooses. (Note: Booking.com’s fees are in the process of changing for some types of reservations) You also have the option to adjust this through your Booking.com or MyVR dashboard if you want to “boost” your properties in rankings for a higher fee.

Instant bookings

Travelers prefer the convenience of instant reservations to sending multiple inquiries in the hopes that one will work out. While for some it may feel disconcerting, it’s little surprise that industry leaders are moving in this direction.

Airbnb and Booking.com instant bookings comparison

Airbnb allows hosts that manage individual listings to control whether or not they allow instant bookings — although Airbnb rewards hosts who enable Instant Book with improved search ranking, discoverability, and convenience.

Once an Airbnb listing is integrated with management software such as MyVR, instant booking is required. However, Airbnb allows hosts to enable restrictions. For instance, hosts can limit Instant Book to guests who have positive reviews from previous stays or who have an Airbnb-verified government ID.

Listing on Booking.com is straightforward: all listings are required to offer instant booking and there are currently no filters property managers can use to restrict who can book.

Host recognition and partner programs

Over the past few years, both Airbnb and Booking.com have developed special designations to recognize property managers and owners who are high performing and manage popular places to stay. Superhosts (Airbnb) and Preferred Partners (Booking.com) benefit from positive rankings in listing search results and extra visibility via search filters.

What's better Airbnb or Booking.com? Superhost vs. Preferred Partner?

Any channel you choose to list on should be easy to use, deliver good value, promote your property to the type of guests you want to attract, and ultimately give you solid opportunities to increase your bookings. In the debate between Airbnb vs. Booking.com, there is no right or wrong answer.

For most property managers, the optimal choice is to employ both listing sites to drive the most traffic, bookings, and revenue to their properties. Use your experience and MyVR’s overview to build a channel management strategy that works best for your property management business.