After tracking prices of 15 self-catering properties in 10 popular British seaside locations on Airbnb and Vrbo in the past year, Which? found price increases on every property.
The average increase was 35% for holiday dates in July and August, but one Airbnb Brighton property owner upped their price per night by 140%.
Demand for UK breaks this year is high as travel abroad has so many stipulations, from hotel quarantine costs, to testing and countries not permitting entry to UK nationals.
While we recently found plenty of accommodation was still available across the UK, desirable domestic seaside spots are booking up more quickly, since there is still no guarantee we’ll be soaking up the sun in the Mediterranean instead this summer.
Not typical price increases
According to Alistair Handyside, Executive Chair of The Professional Association of Self-Caterers UK, this average price increase of 35% is not typical. He told Which? that prices would usually rise by inflation, which in a normal year is around 2%.
Which? analysed prices of property rentals on Airbnb and Vrbo in May and June 2020 for various dates in July and August 2020. We recorded properties located in the top 10 most visited UK seaside destinations by Which? readers, including places such as St Ives, Whitby, Llandudno and Brighton. They were all suitable for two guests.
We have since re-checked costs of the same properties for similar dates in July and August 2021 and found a range of price changes. Of 15 properties where data could still be collected all of them had increased in price.
Find the quiet seaside town hotspots where you can avoid the crowds, as rated by Which? members
Price hikes range from 2% to 140%
The largest mark up of the properties we checked was on a one-bedroom maisonette in Brighton on Airbnb.
When we checked in May 2020 for the first week of August 2020, the cost was £53 per night. When we checked again in February 2021 for the same time, there were just six nights available and the property was £127 per night.
We also saw an increase in price of 70% on a one bedroom property located in the centre of Eastbourne on Airbnb. Last year, for a one week holiday in the first week of August, it would have cost £409. This year the same week is £696.
On Vrbo, a one bedroom property in Bournemouth rose from £722 for the first week of August last year to £958 – a 33% increase.
Other price rises were more modest. A one bedroom cottage on Airbnb in Scarborough rose 7% for similar August dates this year, while a one bedroom property on Vrbo in Swanage with views over the Purbeck Hills had gone up just 2%.
How does pricing work on Airbnb and Vrbo?
Vrbo told us: ‘The hosts are in control and individually set the rental price for their properties.’
It continued: ‘Vrbo does not set, change or influence the property prices a host chooses.’
However, Vrbo does give hosts access to real-time data about competitors, holidaymakers, local events and holidays in case they wish to adjust their prices to remain competitive.
Similarly, Airbnb operates a marketplace where hosts list their accommodation. Therefore it is hosts who set their prices and cleaning fees.
It does provide a tool to property owners, which can be set to automatically adjust the listing price based on changes in demand for similar listings and seasonal demand, but this can be overridden or switched off by the owner.
Airbnb only has control over the service fee, but this does not increase year on year.
In response to the snapshot research, it told us that these were ‘isolated examples’ which were ‘not representative of prices on Airbnb’.
Why have prices risen?
Mr Handyside told us that the reason some prices have shot up is due to demand.
He said: ‘This is not a normal year. Demand will outstrip supply, and demand will be off the scale with very few foreign holidays available. This high demand and low capacity will lead to higher prices. Prices next year are likely to return to a more normal pattern.’