Feeling like you’re sharing a space instead of occupying it, is the experience guests value.
The hospitality industry has every right to be concerned: Forbes estimates that Airbnb which offers lodging for short-term rentals or leases in more than 81,000 cities across 191 countries, is now worth $38 billion. Will this “rare profitable unicorn” cast a fatal spell on hotels?
It’s true. Airbnb can zig while hotels continue to zag. Airbnb lists nearly 3,000 castles and over 2,000 treehouses, but these two examples are at the heart of why hotels and Airbnb are complementary competitors. Airbnb isn’t necessarily eating the hotel industry’s lunch. The space-sharing company is simply offering things that aren’t on the menu.
Price, or value?
Would you agree that Airbnb is the less expensive alternative to staying at a hotel? You might be surprised that this is not always the case. Online travel website Busbud analyzed 220,000 Airbnb listings worldwide and compared them to average hotel rates published by Hotels.com.
The analysis showed that hotels in six major cities worldwide have hotel rates less expensive than Airbnb accommodations. The top two cities, Austin and Barcelona respectively offer hotels with rates $126 to $139 cheaper.
It’s not about the price. It’s about value, and what today’s traveler values above all else is experience. Consumer reports says that companies like Airbnb have created a $100 billion economy for what it describes as, “something real and a little bit adventurous that wasn’t being met by the conventional hospitality landscape.”
Experience. It’s what we crave when we travel. The Consumer Reports survey said that more than half of the participants said they decided to use Airbnb because of “unique accommodations,” and 90 percent of them rated the experience as good or very good.
Experience as a commodity
Travel website Skyscanner says we stay in hotels when we want luxury. Most of us are conscious of the price, but what we value from a hotel is comfort and service. Forbes writes that hotels have perfected a uniform kind of travel lodging, basically turning their accommodations into a commodity.
It’s the opposite of what today’s experience-craving traveler looks for. It’s the opposite of the easily duplicatable and scalable thought process that goes into deciding how to design a hotel room. On-demand economy writer Brian Solomon believes hotels don’t’ need to be afraid of Airbnb, but they do have to understand the value of variations on a theme.
“Not every room should be the same cookie-cutter mold at the same price,” he writes in an article about Airbnb. Solomon goes as far as observing that hotels who infuse personality in their rooms might even end up featured in Airbnb results.
How can hotels capture the experience and locality naturally built in to an Airbnb stay? Travel vlogger Abbey Wilson tells Skyscanner that Airbnb isn’t about amenities, but it is about having your own space where you can cater to yourself. Hotel design can adopt this experience by making lobbies and other public areas feel more like living rooms.
In the guestrooms themselves, multifunctional furniture that can accommodate groups helps to facilitate more time -- and money -- spent at the hotel. There’s no place like home, and many of today’s travelers want to feel like they’re hopping from theirs to someone else’s home. They want to feel the identity that comes from being a guest in the home. That’s a given when you rent someone’s house through Airbnb, but what design aspects can your hotel capture and express to prepare guests for the experience of what’s nearby?
It’s more expensive to rent a private residence in Barcelona than it is to stay at one of the city’s hotels. But the homogenized nature of most hotel rooms can do more to insulate guests from the local vibe them connect them to it.
Hospitality website Fiz suggests taking a different approach when designing hotels to cater to today’s experience-seeking traveler. “Embrace the homestay,” is one way to go about it. Hotels, the website reminds us, have the upper hand when it comes to safety, service, and cleanliness. Hotels simply need to incorporate more of the help-yourself vibe into design by adding self-serve facilities.
Airbnb isn’t always about price. Feeling like you’re sharing a space instead of occupying it is the experience guests value. Travelers – Millennials in particular – don’t want to feel like tourists. Design that integrates locality moves them away from this and pushes them toward the adventurous experience they desire.