What Hotels Can Learn from the Success of Airbnb


Imagine you’re making vacation plans to explore a new city or country. Picture a comfy bed, a suggested guide to the city left on the bedside table, an eat-in-kitchen and a bathtub to soak in…Did you picture a hotel room or someone’s empty apartment? The hospitality industry is continuing to consider consumer preferences as Airbnb approaches its 10-year anniversary in 2018.

Airbnb touts its “unique travel experiences” to guests looking to book overnights among its 3 million listings in 191 countries and more than 65,000 cities. A recent New York Times article valued the company at $30 billion, while it listed Marriott at $35 billion and Hilton at $19 billion. Many are still assessing Airbnb’s impact and how its future will affect hotels, and the restaurants who serve those guests.

Understanding consumers’ evolving travel preferences is essential for hotels who are competing in this sharing economy. The marketing strategies that work for Airbnb may not be replicable at traditional hotels. But knowing what made 150 million guests choose Airbnb (to the tune of $500 million) a year is key.

Many Airbnb guests gravitate to its:

  • Competitive pricing (sometimes even paying more than hotel room, but with full kitchen, living room, etc)
  • Trust/reviews from other guests
  • Vision of a community marketplace
  • One week or longer stays

The typical Airbnb guest may be similar to the typical hotel guest yet drawn to trying an alternative accommodation. Hotels may benefit from highlighting their own “differences” to its competition:

  • Comfort during stay (memory-foam beds and plush towels, anyone?)
  • Security (in-room sprinklers, security cams, on-site assistance)
  • Additional amenities (pool, noted chef on staff, guides for travelers)
  • Guest reviews, hotel awards, and unique offerings
  • Guarantee of reservation (hotels won’t cancel on you!)

It’s also important to note that powerful lobbying groups (including the American Hotel and Lodging Association) are working to enact legislation around Airbnb’s short-term rentals. Aside from lobbying on issues like tax collecting, safety standards, and anti-discrimination laws, groups like the AHLA are also hoping to dispel the idea that Airbnb facilitates extra income in a “mom-and-pop” type fashion.

Airbnb has changed a lot in nearly a decade, and the next ten years are going to be interesting to watch…whether the guest is on the stoop of an Airbnb brownstone or over ham and eggs at the hotel buffet.