Airbnb’s growth curbed by by safety concerns, competition: researcher


After an Iowa family of four died from gas asphyxiation at their online vacation rental, it’s now becoming clear that responsibility for safety ultimately falls on the renter. USA TODAY

LOS ANGELES — All the controversy and competition could be playing havoc with Airbnb bookings, according to a new study.

Researcher eMarketer has lowered its estimates on the hotel alternative service, saying it will serve 5 million fewer guests than originally forecast in the U.S. this year. Growth, per eMarketer, is being hurt by competition and concern by guests over safety and security.

Airbnb, in a statement, said the report is “wrong,” and “simply does not reflect the strong growth we continue to see in the United States and around the world.” It did not supply its own booking numbers.

Users of popular home rental platforms like Airbnb and VRBO are coming to grips with some of the drawbacks to the convenience and value of these hotel alternatives. Cities like New York and San Francisco have imposed restrictions on hosts to make sure long-term renters aren’t priced out. And the death of a family of four from gas asphyxiation at a Mexico condominium listed by Expedia’s HomeAway and VRBO was a grim reminder that renters are ultimately responsible for safety.

A recent study by Injury Prevention showed that some of Airbnb’s 5 million rentals were lacking in fire extinguishers and first-aid kits.

In its defense, Airbnb has stated that safety gear is listed in every rental, and it’s up to renters to decide if there’s enough safety to warrant the booking. And Airbnb recently added a new offering, with more secure homes. The Airbnb Plus category are homes that have been personally visited by an Airbnb inspector and verified for quality and comfort.

EMarketer on Wednesday forecast some 38.4 million users will use Airbnb in 2018 domestically, which is up 13% over 2017, but down from the researcher’s earlier projection of 43.2 million users.

It said the estimates are based on an analysis of various survey data about the lodging sharing economy and Airbnb, as well as historical consumer adoption trends, company data, Internet and mobile adoption trends and demographic adoption trends.

It’s competition that’s really hurting Airbnb, says Shelleen Shum, forecasting director with eMarketer. “A lot of big companies with big resources are really eating into Airbnb,” she says.

Booking Holdings, the owner of, now puts private homes onto its hotel rental site, with vacation rental properties up 200% in 2017, Shum says.