Ever since Airbnb entered the lodging scene in 2008, the hotel industry has cast a wary eye, noting its popularity with young travelers. Despite a strong year for hotels — occupancy and rates broke records in 2015, according to the data firm STR — anxiety may be creeping into those corporate suites.
Airbnb, the largest home sharing network with over two million listings worldwide, is newly targeting business travelers, the bread-and-butter clientele of hotels.
Phocuswright, the travel research firm, noted that one in three leisure travelers in 2015 used private accommodations, up from one in 10 in 2011, and that 31 percent of travelers who used Airbnb in the last two years had used it for business.
“This is a more challenging event in the history of the lodging industry than almost any other,” said Bjorn Hanson, clinical professor of the Jonathan M. Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management at New York University.
How — and even whether — hotels are responding to the competition is a matter of debate. Only AccorHotels, the French hotel company whose brands include Sofitel and Raffles, has invested directly in the sharing economy, in its acquisition of Onefinestay, a London-based home sharing service that focuses on the high-end market.
“There are things that are happening at traditional lodging companies that are accelerating related to Airbnb, and that is less uniformity,” Mr. Hanson said. “Ten years ago at a hotel in Honolulu and in New York, the art and decoration might be identical. We’ve seen brands recognize guests want a more genuine experience and a place that’s more reflective of local culture.”
Hoteliers say they have noted changes in consumer preferences, resulting in new social-oriented brands, homier settings and more functional apps.
New Brands: Social and Local
Hotel companies have expanded their portfolios by adding brands that are designed to appeal to millennial travelers and those who want less service and more connectivity — both technologically and with shared space.