Hoteliers are increasingly losing guests to Airbnb’s new thrust into business-ready homes, but will employees buy into this and what might be perceived as a loss of liberty?
We all know Airbnb and other alternative-accommodations providers are muscling in on areas they really should know do not belong to them and that they have no right to get involved with, or at least that is the hotel industry’s majority thinking.
The main area of concern is in business travel.
At last week’s Annual Hotel Conference in Manchester, England, attendees heard that Airbnb in-roads are being further developed. These are no long, gritty tracks. They have been covered in tarmac, and the time needed to traverse them has been reduced.
Panelists at a session titled “State of the nation: The operator’s view” had tales of woe.
Serena von der Heyde, owner of the 68-room Georgian House Hotel in London, said she had lost a seven-year client who came every year to attend the famed Chelsea Flower Show. The client now books a private home through Airbnb just around the corner from the Royal Horticultural Society’s show grounds in the Royal Hospital Chelsea.
Nicholas Northam, managing director for Interstate Hotels & Resorts’ Europe division, said his company put in a preferred-accommodations bid for a large public-sector conference in Birmingham, England.
The conference, though, has now fully committed to Airbnb.
“All the things we said (Airbnb) cannot possibly do, they are doing, and they are marketing this to groups,” Northam said. “They are very focused on it.”
It seems that groups are heading to houses, not hotels.
This led me to thinking that this categorically changes the nature of employee travel.
Very often, travel is not left to the individual attendee but to an in-house or outsourced event and travel planner. Hotel block buying—and for other parts of travel—no doubt is cheaper than conducting it on an individual basis, but the idea of disappearing into your own hotel room at the end of a long day of meetings and receptions is an ingrained one.
Large private homes perhaps look no different from a hotel—after all, bedrooms all have doors, and probably they would be required if in alternative-accommodations providers’ databases to have locks, but no doubt there is overall less space.
Again, coming down to breakfast is no different. One gets prepared—would all rooms require private showers? I assume so—and then comes to get coffee, but all this I am sure requires a different mindset, no?
And when do the requirements of guests—if they are given a voice—mean these Airbnb “business-ready” homes essentially turn into hotels?
Will employees rail against such an idea? Again, will they be given any voice on the issue?
Is there any difference between what these appear to be now and bed and breakfasts, an accommodation option that is very understood by the British?
It will be interesting to see the next year or so in this particular arena, certainly as firms continue to tighten travel budgets that have been quite lean since the last recession and appear to be not much fatter in the current era of growth.
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