AirBnB as a (cheaper!) hotel booking engine

Far more than just about the “sharing economy,” AirBnB is changing lodging distribution methods for legacy hotel operations in markets around the world. I’ve noticed more and more independent hotel properties using the platform as part of their model, listing rooms there in addition to their own direct channels and OTA options. But until recently I had yet to see a hotel undercutting its own prices via AirBnB. That changed this week as I was looking for a place to stay in Dublin during a conference this summer.

Booking through the hotel's direct channel offers a higher price
Booking through the hotel’s direct channel offers a higher price

The room descriptions are notably different between the AirBnB listing and the hotel’s own website. But that is somewhat expected as the offers are tailored to the different types of guests shopping through the different channels. And, in my prior experiences, the pricing usually differs as well. But I’ve never seen it skew in this direction. The AirBnB listing is some 30% cheaper than the direct sales option.

Booking the same property via AirBnB offers a significantly lower price
Booking the same property via AirBnB offers a significantly lower price

There was another option on the direct site for only $540 in a Double Room but that’s still a 10% bump up from the AirBnB rate.

Related: Is AirBnB worth potential jail time?

The main difference is that AirBnB never refunds its service fee, regardless of when a guest chooses to cancel. In this case that means the $52 would be forfeit were I to change my mind after booking. I’m not 100% set on the schedule yet so I’m not confirming anything today (and there’s a private room option around the corner for a third the price that looks even nicer) but the relatively low cancel penalty might offset the higher rates in many cases.

Of course, in other scenarios I’ve seen the AirBnB price higher than direct so no guarantees. But it does mean that travelers looking for boutique-ish type hotels should probably keep an eye on AirBnB in addition to other channels. Because hotels are definitely using the platform for distribution now.

And this is definitely not the same as that time I saw a guy trying to sublet a bed in his room at a Marriott via AirBnB: Pushing the AirBnB Sharing Economy Limits in Dubai.


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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. I use airbnb very grudgingly. I find it super annoying that they force you to pay in your local currency and make 3% on the FX. I have always successfully done chargebacks for the 3% as I believe they are required to offer you the choice of paying in local currency as per MC/V rules about dynamic currency conversion.

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