Airbnb’s Skyrocketing Growth Includes Four Million Nights Booked in 2011

Travelers have used Airbnb to book a total of five million guest nights in the past four years, staying in spare bedrooms and empty homes around the world.

Even more impressive is that a majority of those bookings — four million — occurred in 2011 alone, according to the San Francisco vacation-rentals company.

Today, the start-up provided a number of metrics for how the company performed last year, and in the months since it raised $112 million, which valued the company at more than $1 billion.

The one figure Airbnb neglected to provide, however, was the number of renters who have applied to receive a $50,000 Host Guarantee, which would reimburse them for the cost of property damage, theft or vandalism.

In August, the company initiated a number of security features, including the guarantee, after a host had a particularly horrible experience with guests who ransacked her apartment and stole her identity.

A spokesperson said Airbnb doesn’t disclose the number of claims that have been submitted, but said that the overall number is much lower than it originally anticipated. “We think this is a testament to the quality and caliber of our community,” she added.

In today’s release, Brian Chesky, CEO and co-founder of Airbnb, said that reaching five million bookings demonstrates the demand for people all over the world to monetize extra space in their homes.

The closest comparison to Airbnb is likely Austin, Texas-based HomeAway, which reports results because it is a public company, even though it focuses more on renting people’s vacation homes, not their primary residences.

HomeAway did not have a comparable figure for homes rented, but it did say the vacation property market is growing quickly. In a 2010 survey it commissioned from Radius Global Market Research, it found that there were more than six million vacation properties in the U.S. and Europe that are rented for a fee to travelers for at least two weeks of every year.

According to the same survey, these vacation rentals generated more than $85 billion of annual rental income in 2010, or nearly $14,000 per property.

HomeAway’s marketplace includes more than 500,000 paid listings of vacation rentals in more than 145 countries worldwide.

In comparison, Airbnb says it lists more than 100,000 properties in 192 countries. Instead of charging for listings, it collects 3 percent of each reservation, and guests are charged 6 to 12 percent of the booking fee.

Here are some of Airbnb’s other numbers:

  • More than 75 percent of all reservations in 2011 were international, with either the guest, host, or both located outside the U.S.
  • The number of available listings increased 166 percent in 2011, and 70 percent of all listings are now located outside the U.S.
  • In 2011, Airbnb added 24-hour customer support in 16 languages through email, live chat, and seven global toll-free phone numbers.
  • The company launched 40 features in 2011 to bulk up trust and safety.
  • Airbnb has offices in San Francisco, Hamburg, Berlin, and London, with new offices opening in Barcelona, Copenhagen, Milan, Moscow, Paris and São Paulo, Brazil.

And if you’re more of a visual learner, here’s the story in a graphic almost big enough to rent out:


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— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald