Airbnb is opening its platform to more hotels. Hoteliers should be eager to use this opportunity to win new customers and change the perception of the industry.
It seems to me that the days of Airbnb as the go-to industry boogeyman might be numbered.
Okay, that’s probably not even close to true, but the alternative-accommodations platform relationship with the hotel industry does seem poised to make a noticeable shift in the near future. News seems to be filtering out that Airbnb will include hotels in its distribution platform, which has essentially operated in the same way as an online travel agency except its product was controlled by a combination of enterprising consumers and less-than-scrupulous landlords.
If all the talk about Airbnb at industry conferences the last few years is true, this should be cause for celebration for hoteliers.
Lots of experts have been beating the drum for a long time that Airbnb is not just sucking away existing demand from hotels but is actually generating at least some demand that wouldn’t have existed if traditional hotels were the only option for travelers. If that is indeed the case, this represents a chance to steal some of that demand.
The next thing I’m going to say is based exclusively on anecdotal evidence, but I believe some travelers who are Airbnb loyalists have some unfair and inaccurate perceptions of the hotel industry. They believe rooms are astronomically more expensive than comparable Airbnb stays. They believe that hotels are cookie-cutter and identical, essentially a sanitized and boring travel experience.
We all know that’s not true and that the hotel industry can be competitive with Airbnb on price and experience if given the opportunity. This seems to be that opportunity. Hoteliers should be champing at the bit to get their properties listed right next to traditional Airbnb supply and possibly woo those travelers.
Once that’s the case, there seems to be very little difference between Airbnb and the Expedias and Booking.coms of the world. If you can woo those folks just once, then you can win them over as repeat customers via a superior experience and all the other tools you have in your toolbox (like loyalty perks).
Recently, the hotel industry has been publicly complaining—justifiably—about the shadow supply of illegal hotels that Airbnb enables in various markets around the world. Obviously, the best solution to getting rid of those is putting them on the same regulatory footing as the hotel industry, but I think that unethical business model begins to crumble when it’s put in direct competition on the same marketplace as real, quality hotel product.
If I were a hotelier, I’d want to go after this opportunity as aggressively as possible because of the potential long-term benefits.
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