As Airbnb celebrates 10 years in operation, hoteliers should look back not just at the challenges companies like it have created but how they pushed hotel companies to be better.
This August marks the 10-year anniversary of everyone’s favorite alternative accommodation, Airbnb. What started out as a way for two roommates to make ends meet has turned into a gigantic company that offers multiple types of accommodations around the world.
People were dismissive of the company at first, arguing no one would stay in a stranger’s home, even as the company grew. Once it became clear the company wasn’t going to go away, hoteliers worried about it as a true competitor, another disruption headache eating into profits alongside online travel agencies. Thus came the calls for creating an equal playing field on taxes and safety standards and fighting for regulation and policing of illegally commercialized rental units.
These, generally, are fair criticisms and calls for action. But let’s give credit where credit is due. Think about where the hotel industry would be without a company like Airbnb and all the other home rental companies that followed suit.
If you were to go through the stories in the Alternative Accommodations category on our website, you would see story after story about what hoteliers could learn from companies like Airbnb and how this type of accommodation has already influenced the hotel industry.
One of the biggest changes I’ve noticed is that, out of concern for losing guests to home and apartment rentals, hotel companies became more creative. I can’t tell you how many stories we’ve written over the years about how hotel companies have changed hotel designs, services and food-and-beverage offerings to better fit in with local neighborhoods.
Years ago, you typically expect only independent or boutique hotels would take this approach because they didn’t have to worry about making sure a guest’s stay there would be identical to a stay at the same brand anywhere else. That was the goal, after all, to make sure guests staying at X brand could come to expect the same stay experience regardless of where they were. On one hand, that’s comforting to travelers who need somewhere to lay their head in an unfamiliar location. On the other, that can be boring.
But it’s not that way anymore. Now we have soft brands, which allowed branded companies to welcome independent hotels into their system that give guests a more localized stay experience, while still setting some brand standards. Also, many hotel brands have introduced more localized design elements into their properties, pushing out the “cookie-cutter” feeling we hear so many executives deride now.
Head to any new or renovated food-and-beverage outlet in a hotel and you’ll likely find at least one thing on the menu that includes local ingredients or a name inspired by the area.
Airbnb has certainly created some challenges for hoteliers, but that’s true of any disruptor to the industry, and adapting to the challenges has pushed the hotel industry to offer better experiences for guests. If you’re going to have to deal with whatever problems a disruptor causes, it can’t be that bad if you end up offering a better product and service than you did before it.
Where do you land on this? Do you think the industry would have made these changes regardless of alternative accommodations? Have they inspired you to try something different? Let me know in the comments below or contact me at email@example.com and @HNN_Bryan.
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