Airbnb is perhaps the portal which gets to be most hated by hoteliers: it is cyclically accused of unfair competition as well as of competing with the hotels without being subject to their rules and of facilitating unregulated activities or illegal labour – just to name a few.
In short, it is a feared competitor, although some studies indicate that the negative impact of Airbnb on the hotel industry is limited to a few lower-middle facilities. A survey by STR performed on 13 global destinations has also shown that in 12 cases the hotel market has grown hand in hand with Airbnb from 2013 through 2016: a clear indication that there is room for everyone.
Despite this, an association of hoteliers in Milan has created a portal to highlight the differences in approach to the market by the home sharing platforms compared with traditional hospitality. You find it at http://www.hotelvsairbnb.it/ and it perfectly conveys the idea of what is alleged to San Francisco’s start-up.
On one thing, however, I think we can all agree: no one can ignore Airbnb. It exists and is successful. That’s why hoteliers should study it and gather some hints that maybe can help re-launch their hotels too.
I herewith list five of them.
Cancellation and payment policies
Airbnb has driven its guests to pay in advance under rigid cancellation policies: at booking time the amount due is taken from the credit card and gets credited to the host only when checking in. Albeit most Ota tell that the gimmick for more reservations is letting cancellations free, no one explains that this is also the way to enhancing cancellations themselves, just in time or too late to reallocate the rooms as well. Airbnb, on the contrary, proves that with clear rules one can cash the money and limit cancellations, thus solving in one-stop the problems of both pre-authorizations and expired prepaid cards: if you don’t have money you just can’t book. The hint for the hotels is that they should be more brave on advance booking, making prepaid rooms more affordable and cancellation policies more rigid, thus avoiding last-minute cancellations by those who have found online discounts.
Airbnb doesn’t just sell rooms but strives to expand its reach: in many cities it is trying to sell tourist experiences tour-court, it bought an app to book restaurants and is planning ticket sales to museums and attractions. Hotels must thus try to go beyond their core business and take every opportunity to sell value-added ancillary services too: from conventions with both restaurants and tourist attractions to premium wireless connections. And they should even go further, i.e. entice guests to use such services: for instance by equipping rooms with Netflix (via Smart TV, where customers can use their own subscriptions) and surcharging those who want a faster wifi connection for a HD viewing.
The choice of distribution channels
Airbnb has not given in to the lure of meta-engines by granting its database to them: it has better distribute only on its website. However, he’s partnered with such platforms as Concur for business travel, so as to be present on a market that would have been more difficult to reach otherwise. Basically it selects the market depending on its targets.
Similarly the hoteliers should not indiscriminately chase all Ota but only those providing the best returns on the markets from which their customers come from.
In case of natural disasters Airbnb is always at the forefront to provide with hospitality those in need. On February 5 it launched on its home page an international campaign on acceptance with the slogan #weaccept claiming its own contribution in 54 global emergencies and urging its community to give availability for a good cause – commendable indeed, enhancing several benefits in terms of image returns as well.
Insofar as he/she can, anyone should engage in a good cause by offering hospitality to those who may need it. It doesn’t have excessive costs and elicits positive awareness.
Lobbying with institutions
This is more related to associations, which are still largely composed of hoteliers: Airbnb exploits its bargaining power to negotiate laws with local and national governments in its favour. It doesn’t always make it, as it happened in Berlin and New York, but unlikely it turned to negotiate good agreements in London, Amsterdam and Milan. It also hired a pool of former mayors of large cities to increase the dialogue with institutions and in some cases it was available to collect the tourist tax on behalf of the governments. In no case, however, it asked to put stakes on the hotel activities. This is why I feel that if associations involved in demanding better conditions for their industries the same commitment they show when they fight Airbnb, they would certainly get better results.