Concerns about the sharing economy- namely, Airbnb and similar travel accommodation options- have plagued the hotel industry since the company first appeared on the market in 2008. But how concerned do hotels need to be about this competitor?
Pose the question “should hotels worry about Airbnb?” to Google and the results, even from within the past year, will be all over the board. Business Insider UK reports that the industry is “being disrupted” and that Airbnb is as much a concern to hotels as Uber is to taxi services. On the other hand, sources like Bloomberg, TIME and the Washington Post have all declared that the rental service doesn’t pose as strong of a threat as some may believe, especially to high-end and luxury hotels.
Depending on the person and the nature of their trip, Airbnb may not be a viable option for a number of reasons. Many of the site’s accommodations have a minimum stay of more than one night, rendering it inconvenient for overnight or business travelers who are only in a location for a short period of time. Many travelers also turn to sites like Booking.com to compare room rates. As Airbnb does not interface with these sites, it adds another step to the booking process that many travelers will not pursue.
Cities have cracked down on regulations for Airbnb hosts over the past two years, especially in large US cities such as San Francisco, where the company was forced to pay millions in back taxes in early 2015, and New York, where hotels are pushing for stricter regulations and similar tax rates for Airbnb hosts as they themselves pay, reducing potential hosts’ incentive to list their homes and, in turn, reducing competition for hotels.
However, the most powerful reason that guests will continue to choose hotels is for the services that they provide that Airbnbs cannot provide simply due to their nature- attentive service and reliability. Regular housekeeping, guaranteed amenities, and in-house staff ready to assist guests at all hours of the day are services that only hotels can provide.
In today’s sharing economy, the key for hotels to remain competitive is to capitalize on these aspects that cause guests to choose hotels over other rental services. If guests are choosing the hotel for its safety and reliability, the hotel should ensure that rooms are properly cleaned and ready on time, in-room amenities are restocked and working flawlessly, and that staff can communicate a guest’s needs or requests quickly and efficiently among teams.