Why are Booking.com, AirBnB Croatian Occupancy Rates So Different?

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AirBnB screenshot

June 27, 2019 – At the time of year when Croatian media focuses on how the season is going, some interesting discrepancies between Booking.com and AirBnB occupancy rates.

So how is the season? How are bookings? Will 2019 be another record year to beat the record year of 2018, which beat the record year of 2017? The record year of 2020 will beat the record year of 2019, but how do things stand in the world of reality away from the Kingdom of Accidental Tourism?

It is a topic I used to follow quite closely each summer, but not so much these days as my interest focus moves away from tourism. But I still have the conversations with people I meet, and the general verdict from the private accommodation sector is that booking are up to 20% down on the record 2018 and most will be happy if they get to within 5-10% of last year’s numbers. 

As I said, it is not a topic that particularly interests me these days, until that is… 

Preparing for my latest business trip this week, I was looking for a one-night rental in Dubrovnik on Sunday, June 30. I started with AirBnB and was surprised by one thing and astounded by another. 

I was surprised at how many private rooms and apartments were available for under £40 a night in this exclusive destination suffering from over-tourism just a few days before the peak season. 

And I was astounded by the AirBnB statistic for my over night stay on June 30 (remember I was looking on June 27, just three days before):

32% of places in Dubrovnik for your dates and guests are already booked. 

Which means 68% were not booked. 

WTF? Had I stumbled across a story looking for the cheapest bed in the Pearl of the Adriatic for one night? It turns out that I had, butt not the one I thought I had. 


The obvious place to counter check was Booking.com – and the picture could not be more different. While AirBnB was only 32% full, Booking was an impressive 87% occupied for Bradbury’s visit to Dubrovnik on Sunday. 


And, according to Booking.com, Dubrovnik was doing better than Split. 


Which was doing better than Zadar. You can keep playing this game yourselves. 


Just for fun, I chose a totally unpopular time to come in a destination I know well – Jelsa on Hvar. If you are thinking of visiting on December 15, then hurry, for Jelsa is 93% booked for this time of year when nobody visits. 

So why the discrepancy? 

I am sure that part of the reason to explain the high occupancy in Jelsa in December is down to the fact that the hotels are closed and so they simply block them off, and the Booking algorithm counts this as occupied. But even so – 93%?

Another partial explanation could be that Booking.com has a huge hotel database, whereas AirBnB is much more focused on private accommodation. Could it be that the Croatian hotel industry is doing extremely well and private accommodation very poorly?


A very interesting article from leading Croatian entrepreneur Nenad Bakic, featured by TCN this week, showed a huge discrepancy between Croatia and the rest of the EU. As you can see from the charts above and below, hotel occupancy as a percentage of tourism accommodation is a third of the EU average.


And with exactly half of Croatian tourism overnights coming from private accommodation (Slovenia is the only EU country which has more than 30%), could a lack of take-up of private accommodation this year (or better phrased, too much private accommodation on the market) be a large contributor to the lower AirBnB numbers compared to Booking.com?


The higher Booking.com percentages may be due to the fact that Croatia’s hotels are fully booking, but that is hardly surprising.  

There are not nearly enough of them. As I explained at the recent Filipovic Real Estate Conference in Zagreb and Frei in Budva, the majority of the luxury international brands are avoiding Croatia, while they are queueing up to open in places like Montenegro. 

A good season or bad? I have no idea if this will be the record season that official numbers will no doubt announce, or the disaster that many private owners predict. The only thing I can say with certainty is that with Jelsa 93% booked for December, our place is available, but book now!


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