In the past few months — perhaps even years — much has been made of Airbnb’s impact on the hospitality industry. Between 2010 and 2015, the number of travelers who stayed with an Airbnb host grew from 47,000 to 17 million per year. And in 2016, CEO Brian Chesky announced Airbnb’s new Experiences feature, which allows users to browse tours, outings, and activities led by locals. Rumor even has it that Airbnb is working on its very own flight booking tool.
So has Airbnb stolen a large piece of the hotel industry’s pie? Or has it had a minimal effect thus far? The industry still isn’t sure which is the reality. Some studies have shown that Airbnb has had a significant negative impact on hotel revenues, while others suggest that the situation is perhaps not as dire as many believe.
Whatever the case may be, it’s clear that Airbnb’s users are loyal to the brand. Reportedly, only 40 percent of travelers who have used Airbnb prefer traditional hotels. Roughly one-third of leisure and business travelers used Airbnb in 2015, a significant leap from the one in 10 who used it in 2011.
So what is it, exactly, that makes Airbnb’s app so appealing to travelers? We had a look at it, and we’ve come up with a few ideas.
Much of the Airbnb experience is about self-service — a trend that appeals a great deal to the Millennial segment of travelers. Users can communicate with their hosts via text at any time using their mobile device, and each time a message appears in the host or guest’s inbox, they receive a push notification. The app keeps a record of all conversations between the user and host so that both parties can refer to older messages if necessary. The user can message or respond to hosts directly within the app, whether it’s to inquire about local attractions, confirm arrival times, or coordinate key pickup.
This kind of arrangement is all about convenience and preference. If the guest doesn’t want to communicate with the host at all during their trip, they don’t have to — but if they’d like to meet the host for dinner one night, then all they have to do is send a quick message.