In these turbulent times for online travel is it goodbye hotel, hello 21st century lodging?
When Airbnb launched with an air mattress on the floor of a San Francisco apartment back in June 2012, its target audience was the value-seeking customer. Some would argue that the so-called ‘sharing economy’ poster child had redefined budget travel.
With ‘upscale, luxury’ apartments in New York now on offer for upwards of £3,000 a night, how quickly that has changed – and along with it customer behaviour – but a significant number of ‘value-seeking’ customers are still looking to Airbnb for their accommodation needs.
This, argues Bill Beckler, co-founder of AlltheRooms.com, a search engine that combines hotel sites with Airbnb, Hotwire, Groupon, Couchsurfing and explains why a significant number of hostels, like this onein San Francisco and this Brighton one, are using Airbnb as a platform to promote their offering.
And, just for the record, this isn’t because Airbnb is doing a better job at promoting hostels than Hostelbookers or Hostelworld, two of the largest hostel booking engines.
In fact, Airbnb has done little, if anything, to recruit hostels or tailor the platform to meet their needs. There is, for example, no facility for managing multiple flexible rooms for multi-party trips, which would be useful for the hostel model.
Yet, hostels are still coming onto the Airbnb platform in droves because quite simply they know – and fair play to them – that if this is where their customers are, then this is where they need to be.
Beckler, a former Director of Innovation at lastminute.com where he earned the nickname ‘The General’, sees this “presence of hostels on Airbnb as the harbinger of the future of distribution.”
There can be little doubt that the future of distribution is indeed changing, the result of two colliding waves of shifting customer behaviour and regulatory intervention.
It recently lost a battle with the New York legislature, which claims that the platform is illegal, and while Airbnb has sued to block enforcement of the law and many hosts remain using the platform, these are turbulent times.