What hotels can do to compete with Airbnb

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Hitesh (HP) Patel
AAHOA Chairman (2018-2019)

Home-sharing platforms have drastically altered the hotel industry. Hotels now compete with local hosts, who post rooms or entire homes on platforms like Airbnb and HomeAway, rather than just their hotel counterparts across the street. This change is not necessarily harmful for hotels but it does mean that hotel owners need to update their operations to keep their business fresh, innovative, and competitive in a growing market.

It is no secret that traditional hotels offer travelers the best guest experience possible. When it comes to the quality of rooms, customer service, and access to amenities like pools, gyms, and restaurants, home-sharing hosts do not compare. But there is something else that is drawing consumers, specifically young consumers, into the home-sharing world when they travel. The 2018 State of American Travel report by Morning Consult finds that younger Americans are much more likely to use Airbnb than older Americans. One component of this is the role that technology plays in planning a stay. As home-sharing platforms are completely digital, guests can use the platforms to not only book a place to stay, but help travelers find out where they want to go.

To actively and successfully compete, hotel owners must embrace the use of technology. There are several ways to do this. One is to highlight the local area on the hotel website; this will not only advertise the hotel itself but it will make the community stand out from other places travelers are considering. Many hotels are even creating phone apps that allow consumers to see booking costs, make reservations, check in, and leave reviews about their stay directly from their smart phones. The ease of this dynamically engages travelers and could increase the chances of the consumer staying a second time. The information collected from guest reviews is a great way to gauge what they liked, or did not like, about their stay and can be used to make future improvements.

Besides utilizing digital avenues to enhance competition, owners can also focus on rethinking certain design aspects of their hotels. Much of the appeal in booking a stay with an Airbnb host is the incorporation of the local environment. To some travelers, hotels do not always reflect the region or community enough, and opt to stay with a host in order to gain the experience of a local. Boutique hotels often achieve this unique atmosphere for guests by creating spaces that are not labeled as generic, but rather resemble the local culture. Franchise hotels can do this too, even in subtle ways. Everything from incorporating artwork in the lobby and guestrooms that depicts the region to advertising local events will make a guest’s experience feel more authentic and immersive.

With the rise of Airbnb and HomeAway, hoteliers need to take a look at their strategies for success and consider if changes need to be made to maintain a prominent role in the market. By increasing digital awareness and promoting hotels as facets of the community, hotel owners can make their hotels the go-to accommodation for tourists. A proactive approach is the only way for hotels to stay ahead of the game, regardless of who they are competing against.

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