Emerging threats to our (meetings and events) way of life: Part 3

02/04/2015 By James Bland

What’s the Airbnb endgame? Five possible scenarios.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve blogged about the emerging threats to the meetings industry as I see them. I’ve considered IT security and the sharing economy. In this last piece, I outline five (and dismiss a sixth) potential endgame scenarios for airbnb:

  1. Strength to strength

Airbnb has made a mark on existing demand, for sure. You need only see how often CEO’s say they aren’t worried about it to work out how much they are. It’s also, I would wager, brought lots of new demand into the market so one possible scenario sees it become embedded into the mainstream, and establishing itself as significant a player as the Hiltons, Marriotts, IHGs and Accors of this world

  1. Normalisation and stabilisation (or rejection)

Or perhaps its appeal lies entirely in the fact it’s new, different and seen as being outside the establishment. Therefore it’s possible that it will plateau at some point, and face either rejection or, more likely, settle into its own space, co-existing harmoniously with more traditional accommodation providers.

  1. Collaboration

Ultimately it’s a distribution channel. Similar, in effect to an OTA. Might we see branded or independent hotel stock listed on its site in the future? Will it maintain its current position, or accept the prospect of even more commissions?

  1. Selling out

Is airbnb a hotel brand? By any classic test it is not, but then a number of new-to-market hotel brands would probably, logo design aside, fail classic tests. And the fact it doesn’t own a single brick of the accommodation it sells doesn’t differentiate it from a number of brands in-market already anyway. It’s entirely conceivable that one of the big hoteliers might decide to deal with the threat by getting the chequebook out and absorbing it. A marriage of the two types of business could have intriguing and exciting benefits.

  1. Disrepute and decline

A longer shot, I’d wager, but it’s not impossible that a series of disasters and scandals could bring this model to its knees. Airbnb obviously sees this threat and considers service recovery to be a marketing issue, as they go to great lengths to resolve issues quickly, effectively and – where necessary – publicly.

I also considered, briefly, a sixth outcome; that it gets regulated and legislated out of existence. However I consider that to be almost impossible now, such is its size and reach. Co-ordinating global legislation simply couldn’t happen on that sort of scale, and while trading in some cities and countries might become a little trickier for them, ultimately the will of the people will out. If demand is there, the structure of the market will alter to facilitate the supply.

Which of these will end up happening? I’m afraid you’ll have to ask one of its founders.