The rise of Airbnb


The rise of Airbnb

The rise of Airbnb

HGEM's Operations and HR Director Lisa Chambers looks at the reasons behind Airbnb's success.

Airbnb has well and truly earnt its reputation as an industry disruptor. In December, Airbnb were forced to introduce new rules prohibiting hosts in London from renting out their properties for more than 90 days a year, after critics claimed it was unduly affecting the London housing market. In February, over 81,000 properties in the UK were listed on the website. 2.2 million tourists stayed in Airbnb properties in 2015 alone.

Hospitality organisations have joined in the crowds of voices criticising Airbnb and warning of its potential effects - but judging by predictions that by 2020 Airbnb will be taking 500 million bookings a night, the fight from hotels to reclaim the market hasn’t been successful.

To many, Airbnb’s success still presents something of a surprise. There’s an element of risk involved when staying at an Airbnb property, with hosts and accommodation regulated only by Airbnb itself. Horror stories have emerged from both hosts and holiday makers about how wrong Airbnb can go. In addition, many Airbnb properties lack the benefits of hotels- less privacy, fewer facilities, and less security. However, it also allows for an adventure. On one trip, Airbnb-ing let me stay in a tree pod, a gypsy caravan, and a room in a castle. Sometimes an adventure is just what’s desired!

Understanding the success of Airbnb requires understanding a few other key trends that have emerged in hospitality over the past few years.

1. Delivering success. Deliveroo’s success means it’s another company often labelled as an industry disruptor, enabling people to eat restaurant quality food without having to leave their house. Food subscription boxes are on the rise too, as more and more people attempt adventurous cooking in their own homes.

2. The drinking decline. Not only are people drinking less in general, but in September (for the first time since records began) Britain was buying more beer from shops than it was from pubs. When people are drinking, more and more of them are opting to do it from home.

3. Curtains for cinemas. Netflix and other streaming services have been throwing a wrench in the works of traditional television for some time, but they’ve recently turned their sights on the film industry. As Netflix begins purchasing film rights and organising coordinated releases with cinemas, they add to the overall strain currently on cinemas.

Across all sectors of hospitality – food, beverages, and entertainment – guests are opting for comfort, preferring the cosiness of their own homes over venturing out. Though delivered food often isn’t up to the standards of that fresh from the kitchen, though watching a film on a laptop can’t compare to the special effects and surround sound of a cinema, and although a glass of wine on the sofa won’t ever be the same as sharing a drink down at the local, the desire for the comfort of home is trumping quality.

And it’s this desire that Airbnb taps into. By allowing people into real homes, often to stay with the person or people who live there, they’ve created a more personal and intimate experience than many hotels currently offer.

But the professionalism and expertise behind hotels shouldn’t be a barrier to providing an experience that competes with Airbnb in the comfort stakes. Hotel operators need to embrace all that is implied by the word “guest” – not just someone who is paying for your facilities and service, but someone you have invited and welcomed in. Every team member should be able to think of the hotel as their home, and to treat visitors as their personal guests. Airbnb built a campaign around “don’t go there. Live there.” Your hotel needs to encourage guests to do the same.

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