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AirBnB – the threat goes on…

As hoteliers we might have been accused of being caught napping 8 years ag0 when AirBnB launched.  I can still hear the voices in our trade (mine included) who said, ‘this will never take on’ or ‘who wants to stay in someone else’s home when on a trip’… well the truth is that we were wrong.

AirBnB poses one of the biggest threats to our industry and as off last week the threat just got bigger with the launch of AirBnB Trips.

Trips focuses on 3 key areas – Places, Experiences and Homes.  We were wrong when we thought that people wouldn’t want to stay in someone else’s home when taking a trip, when in fact there are millions of travellers who do. AirBnB has long since got past the perception of being accommodated in someone’s grotty spare room. In actual fact AirBnB offers travellers way more flexibility than that.  As we now know, there is a whole swath of people making a huge amount of money by letting not only their own homes, rooms or apartments but on the back of that, a new industry has evolved with clever developers buying all sorts of property specifically to market to AirBnB customers.

So what is AirBnB fulfilling that we as hoteliers aren’t – well in my mind it is the experience.  There is a whole new generation of travellers who want to feel immersed in a culture; part of their destination; experiencing something authentic and having a travel memory that is quite different to what they would’ve had if they’d stayed 4 nights in a Premier Inn.

And with ‘Trips’ this goes one step further.  Trips is aimed at immersing travellers in local culture by providing them with locally sourced knowledge on unique experiences and different things to do.  What better way to gain loyalty than to understand your market!  Give travellers who want a different way to travel a different experience – pure genius! This is summed up by AirBnB’s CEO:

“Until now, Airbnb has been about homes,” said Brian Chesky, Airbnb CEO. “Today, Airbnb is launching Trips, bringing together where you stay, what you do, and the people you meet all in one place. We want to make travel magical again by putting people back at the heart of every trip.” 

So there you have it – AirBnB is doing something we as an industry struggle to do and that is to make our guest experience, magical…  And how did they do that, well it is very simple, they asked around. As an industry we often fail to recognise that our towns and cities, places and most importantly, people, have a story to tell.  These stories are what make all of our travel experiences worth remembering.  Ask yourself on your last holiday abroad, do you really remember the room?  Probably not, but you will remember the wonderful adventures you had and the people you met along the way.  Exploiting those ‘memory touch points’ is what AirBnB do so well.  They allow their guests to be part of a culture and with recommendations on Trips being as varied as a Samurai Swordplay workshop or perhaps an immersive multi-day experience like learning about and driving classic cars in Paris. Experiences offer unprecedented access and deep insights into communities and places that you wouldn’t otherwise come across, such as Truffle Hunting in Tuscany or the grime music scene in London.

‘Places’ then brings together all of these recommendations from locals and suppliers of  the ‘different and unique’ and presents them to the traveller as authentic experiences, gathered together from travellers who have actually enjoyed the experience themselves – (not yet available in the UK but trust me, this will come). There will be insider guidebooks and recommendations on hidden gems and soon they will add a restaurant booking app which will allow you to book restaurants that have been recommended by fellow travellers – genius! There will be walking tours and guides and the aim of all of this is to make travel easy, make it fun, make it interactive and importantly, intuitive.

So how do we combat this?  Is all lost? I hope not, but I hope that as an industry we realise that we can’t sit still. We cannot bury our heads in the sand.  Times are a changing and our guests and their needs are changing too. But combating this cannot be left to the single hotelier – it is far too daunting.  So perhaps it is time we asked our Tourist Boards and Authorities to step up.  Shouldn’t we all be working towards the same goal? And that is to ensure that every visitor leaves feeling they had a wonderful and unique experience. Perhaps it is time we learnt to tell our story a little better and as hoteliers we need to be integral to that story.

I hope not to sit back and wait to see how this all pans out.  I hope to be very much involved in the change – I hope you are too.

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