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Are hotels or Airbnbs cheaper? The answer might surprise you

Research from consumer watchdog Which? compared the cost of thousands of hotels and private holiday rentals around the world

“Surprising” new research from one of Europe’s leading consumer watchdogs suggests that hotels are frequently cheaper than renting accommodation from platforms including Airbnb, particularly for couples and people travelling alone.

The study published on Saturday morning by British consumer magazine Which? compared the cost of thousands of hotels with 300,000 Airbnb and Vrbo stays all over the world, and found private rentals were 19 per cent more expensive on average.

It said the price of one-bed listings on the rental platforms outstripped the average cost of a hotel room - excluding five-star hotels - in 38 of 50 destinations.

In some locations the price differences were particularly stark – setting travellers back hundreds of euro more for a rental over a week-long stay, even before accounting for service charges, which were not included in the consumer magazine’s price analysis. In Santorini, a one-bed rental on Airbnb and Vrbo was €235 a night on average, 71 per cent more than a hotel stay €138. Over the course of a week, the savings for hotel guests could be substantial, with holidaymakers cutting their costs by as much as €682 on average. In Amsterdam, one-bed Airbnb and Vrbo listings were 58 per cent more expensive per night on average at €212, compared with €135 a night for a hotel. That means travellers could pay as much as €576 more on average over a seven-night stay.

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Hotel rates in many Asian cities were also comparatively cheap when contrasted with listings on Airbnb and Vrbo. In Hong Kong for example, one-bed listings were 85 per cent more expensive on average, setting travellers back €114 per night, compared with just €62 for a hotel room, with similar findings in Singapore and Dubai.

Hotels also worked out cheaper on average in all four of the UK’s capital cities. In Greater London, an Airbnb or Vrbo stay cost almost 60 per cent more at €188, than the average hotel stay of €118.

In Edinburgh, meanwhile, holidaymakers could save €26 per night, with the average cost of a hotel stay coming to €120, compared to €146 for an Airbnb or Vrbo rental. In Cardiff and Belfast, savings were more modest, but could still see holidaymakers make savings over the course of a week, with hotel rooms costing €6 less on average in Belfast €14 less in Cardiff per night.

Holiday lets rose in popularity during the pandemic, and continued demand has likely played a role in rising prices. Though a hotel stay may be more cost-effective than a room rental in many destinations, hotels have also seen their prices rise rapidly, with UK room rates up 11 per cent on average last year when compared with 2019, and US rates up 14 per cent, according to hospitality analyst CoStar.

Private rentals can still offer good value however – and larger groups are more likely to save when compared to booking into a hotel.

In France, which has one of the largest supplies of private rentals in the world (the number of listings for France are second only to the US), Airbnb and Vrbo listings were cheaper or the same price as hotels in five of the seven destinations researchers looked at, with a one-bedroom rental typically costing less than a hotel room in Antibes, Biarritz, La Rochelle and Avignon, while they were the same price in Nice. However, rental listings in Bordeaux and Paris were more expensive.

“Many holidaymakers may be surprised to discover that the average cost of hotels in many destinations is cheaper than one-bedroom holiday lets, which are often promoted as a popular option for travellers trying to save money,” said the editor of Which? Travel Rory Boland.

“When planning your next trip, don’t assume a hotel will cost more, but instead check rates across different platforms. For larger groups that need more rooms and space, private rentals are still likely to beat hotels on price.”

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor