Airbnb: threat or idol?

Boasting more than 60,000,000 guests in over 34,000 cities and 190 countries, Airbnb seems to stand for a seismic shift in the dynamic between suppliers and consumers not only in the hospitality industry, but rippling out to the wider economy.
We take a look at behind Airbnb’s rise and what hotel-owners worldwide can learn from it.

Threat?

  • The growing force

Founded in 2008, Airbnb has grown dramatically and is now valued at up to $25bn (£16.5bn); this, despite annual losses amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars. While the site has yet to rival the total bookings at established giants such as IHG and Marriott, investors estimate that its bookings will double to around 80 million nights this year. With the exponential growth of technology and the myriad new possibilities this enables, Travolution is forecasting the ‘sharing economy to grow at an extraordinary rate over the next decade, reaching $335bn (£222bn) by 2025.’

  • The impact

The impact on the hotel industry is undeniable, despite the traditional line from major hotel chains pointing to the clear differences in business model and target audience. One ways this is visible is in the trend of consolidation that we looked at earlier this week; opening up the hospitality sector to a far wider range of part-time hosts represents a major change, particularly threatening to smaller hotels.

  • The challengers

Even so, it’s still a hazy landscape for Airbnb: While occasional scare-stories about hosts’ behaviour or opportunistic scammers haven’t deterred guests, there are calls for greater regulation and limits to the use of Airbnb. These have achieved varied success; defeat in San Francisco is counterbalanced by victory in Berlin, where the city’s housing shortage has prompted a complete ban on Airbnb listings. HomeAway, acquired by Expedia this year, is promising an aggressive marketing campaign to compete with the home-stay market.

Idol?

The key to bringing fresh Air to your hotel is idolising what they do right. Ask yourself what works. ‘Sharing economy’ is a misnomer: peer-to-peer booking is undoubtedly attractive to many customers, but this is only part of the story.

  • Everyone needs a lie-in sometimes

Airbnb thrives because it allows its hosts to offer guests exactly what they want. Their recent suite of personalised tools are developed precisely to ensure smooth communications between guest, host and website. Travellers love the personal touch: talking to your host, tailoring your trip and even sharing someone’s home is charming, where traditional hotels seem efficient yet faceless. Personalising you hotel experience doesn’t have to mean wacky location-specific activities; it can as simple as offering completely flexibility check in (and out) times. We at Triptease know that lots of hotels have cottoned on already, so help you show it off in both our Price Check widget and Enchantment Messaging.

  • Everyone likes to talk – and also to listen

Airbnb knows its Millennial-heavy clientele. Quite apart from the ease of online interaction and the helpful screen layout showing different accommodation options on a map, reviews focusing on the most important aspects of the stay are strongly encouraged. Judiciously offered vouchers for leaving reviews on new rooms or recommending friends to the site fan the flames, encouraging guests to try a new holiday model.

  • Familiar is comforting

For all the apocalyptic warnings about the threat of Airbnb, the fact remains that large swathes of travellers remain unconvinced. A major poll this year revealed that even on authenticity and value for money, Airbnb’s strongest suits, the ‘sharing economy’ was found to have far fewer supporters than ‘traditional methods’. This reluctance of many travellers to put their trust in alternative models of accommodation gives hotels an important initial advantage. Match Airbnb’s personality and you can maintain loyalty.

 

Following the motto that ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’, many hotels are listing their own rooms on the site to exploit its prodigious market reach. However, many of the reasons behind Airbnb’s success actually provide useful lessons which are applicable for traditional hotels as well as members of the ‘sharing economy’. Encouraging and incentivising helpful online reviews, maintaining great levels of communication, having a user-friendly website, and (above all) establishing an approachable personal relationship with guests: these are all things that Airbnb does really well, and by replicating and improving on these, smaller hotels can keep the edge that the traditional model still offers.

About The Author

Triptease empowers hotels to recapture guest relationships and increase direct bookings. Follow our blog for the latest insights and trends in the Direct Booking Movement.