How the Best Hotels in The World Are Dealing With the Emergence of Airbnb

Illuminated hotel sign taken at night

Airbnb started in 2008 as a novel concept designed to disrupt the hotel industry. It’s achieved wild success over the years and is now quite a force. Indeed, a recent study in the International Journal of Hospitality Management suggests Airbnb has put a slight dent in many hotels’ revenues.

However, the same study also provides hope for traditional lodging. It concludes that Airbnb serves as a supplement to hotel accommodation, rather than a full replacement. Savvy hospitality leaders have developed successful strategies to combat the threat.

Here are some ways industry experts have leveled the playing field.

Hotels Have Higher-Level Service & Amenities

An affordable casita in a prime locale may sound like a formidable competitor. But, hotels do have favorable distinctions. Most center on customer-focused amenities such as room service, spa treatments, and onsite dining.

Hotels that leverage these to their benefit can successfully woo guests away from otherwise tempting Airbnb rentals. Value-add services must be marketed to the fullest and delivered perfectly. If a hotel cannot fully exploit these inherent advantages, it will have trouble competing with the price point of Airbnb.

Some industry leaders are taking it a step further. According to Forbes Magazine, Marriot has found success in offering value-add “experience packages.” These provide guests with discounts on regional activities such as kayaking, zip lining, and wine tasting. Justin Salisbury, the owner of Artist Residence Boutique hotels, sums it up by simply stating, “Hotels must now offer more than just a room.”

Simplicity & Convenience

One way Airbnb revolutionized lodging was through advanced technology that made things simple for guests. Bookings became easy, as did cancellations. There was no formal check-in. Most hotels have followed suit by easing-back on archaic rules and providing a variety of online booking options.

Privacy, Space & Layout

While traditional hotels have a built-in advantage in terms of amenities and service offerings, many Airbnb properties boast more space-per-dollar. It’s very difficult for hotels to compete in room size, given the differences in margins. However, issues of privacy, space, and layout should be considered in new design and remodeling.

Hotels are wise to design rooms that maximize space and privacy. Simple considerations, such as optional entry points that bypass the main lobby, also appeal to shy guests. Finally, virtual check-in /check-out are welcome Airbnb-type features that provide discretion.

Final Points

In business, it’s always good to have “an ace up the sleeve.” Some hotels competing with Airbnb can find this in prestige. Stays at random homes rarely provide talking points or Instagram moments. Many image-conscious guests still enjoy bragging about their experience at a hip boutique hotel.

Ultimately, Airbnb forces hotels to focus on value. The aforementioned International Journal of Hospitality Management article concludes that properties with competitive prices and offerings need not fear Airbnb.

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