Should hoteliers worry that the alternative-accommodations platform has grown synonymous with multicultural experience even if you never leave your house?
I came to something of a revelation very recently with something that should’ve been almost immediately obvious: Airbnb now seems to be impacting my day-to-day life. That might seem like a bit of hyperbole, but I assure you it’s true.
This revelation came in connection with one of the most mundane tasks imaginable: cooking dinner on a weekday night. You see, due to my own lack of food-related creativity and boredom with preparing and eating the same thing every night, I’ve subscribed to the meal-kit service Blue Apron. (I assure you, I’ve received no compensation from Blue Apron for that mention, unlike every podcast you’ve ever listened to.)
For the past few months, that company has partnered with Airbnb on a series of multicultural meals put together with the help of Airbnb hosts across the globe.
Essentially this means I unwittingly get multiple reminders each week of Airbnb’s global presence.
I wonder if the major hotel companies can and would do anything similar either in an effort to inspire travel or tie themselves so closely to that consumer mindset.
In a way, it doesn’t seem very dissimilar from Hyatt Hotels Corporation’s goal, reiterated multiple times by President and CEO Mark Hoplamazian, of moving into the “adjacent spaces” for the affluent travelers they target.
And the idea of meal kits themselves are not alien to the hotel industry, since companies like Hilton have experimented with their viability in the extended-stay segment. But this seems to be less about the F&B service and more about Airbnb finding a low-friction way of associating itself with multicultural experiences even while not traveling.
Back in March, Hilton’s Jonathan Wilson explained at the Hunter Hotel Conference that Hilton executives view their business as critically different than that of Airbnb. At the time, he remarked that “Airbnb is fundamentally a lodging company” while “Hilton is fundamentally a hospitality company.”
But this isn’t Airbnb acting as a lodging company. This is less about lodging and more about experience. Essentially, Airbnb is operating as a lifestyle company, intrinsically tying its brand to the experience of globetrotting, whether that be geographically or gastronomically.
This seems like a piece of Airbnb’s growth that should be concerning for hoteliers thinking long term. There are plenty of ways to explain away Airbnb’s impact on the industry for the time being, pointing out continued growth in industry fundamentals and the reasonable belief that Airbnb captures a different type of demand than hotels. But the more Airbnb becomes the company that lets you experience the world, the less relevant hotels become to consumers.
So, I guess this all comes down to a simple concept for hoteliers: Don’t let Airbnb eat your lunch by helping me make my dinner.
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