New facets of home rentalBy James Bland
We’ve heard Airbnb and other homestay sites called a lot of names in the past few years. But the atmosphere at the 2017 Hotel Alternatives Event marked a distinct departure from previous negativity. They are achieving recognition for their power to reshape the market and more hoteliers are willing to work with them.
Hotel guests are certainly embracing them with open arms. Our most recent Hotel Guest Survey figures reflect this. Across Western Europe, a quarter to a third of hotel-stayers have used home rental. For other major countries, the figure is much higher. Over half of hotel stayers in China said they used home rental.
It, therefore, makes sense for the hospitality community to embrace the home rental sector too. Here are some of the more positive “names” it was given at the Hotel Alternatives Event:
It might come as a surprise that hoteliers are moving their inventory from one enemy to another. Serviced apartments operator, Bridgestreet, already features a number of apartments on the Airbnb website and have seen some success. “Work-meets-play” brand, Zoku, has also placed stock on the platform, with the obvious advantage of targeting the right audience for their product.
Partnerships with Airbnb feel more balanced compared with other OTAs. Commission rates are much lower. And, in return, Airbnb receives exposure to corporate travellers. Our recently published 2016 Hotel Guest Survey report shows that 17% of UK hotel-stayers have used homestay in the past two years. Homestay sites still have some way to go to convince corporate travel managers where guest safety is concerned. However, Airbnb already counts 150,000 companies as clients, according to new Head of Business David Holyoke. They are addressing concerns through 'Business Travel Ready' listings that guarantee faster responses, 24-hour check-in and business amenities.
Another surprising word for hoteliers to describe homestay sites.
In a bid to reassure and attract more conservative travellers, services like Underthedoormat provide a more structured and professional home rental experience. Both for the guest and the homeowner. Underthedoormat meets the guest, takes care of cleaning, bedding and towels, as well as helping guests plan their stay. This kind of service was previously limited to luxury home rental sites like OneFineStay, but any traveller can now opt for a professionally-managed home rental experience.
Last but not least, the hotel sector recognises that homestay sites have inspired them to think out of the box. Many of the event's speakers described the explosion of lifestyle accommodation brands as a direct response to Airbnb’s popularity. It has prompted hotel groups to learn the needs of millennial travellers and respond with a more locally-connected offer that blends life and work. The use of technology has also boomed. And tech focus has shifted away from operational efficiency, towards connecting with guests in a more meaningful way. Take the new housekeeping mobile app from Ibis, which empowers staff to provide a personalised service away from their desks.
The positivity expressed towards home rental, of course, was affected by the nature of the event. However, serviced apartment brands and other hotel alternative providers say that home rental has boosted demand for their products because it’s made guests aware that other options exist outside the traditional hotel stay.
Whilst this may be true, home rental is impacting room night demand. The 2016 GB Hotel Guest Survey report shows that almost a quarter of homestay nights would otherwise have gone to a hotel chain and a further 10% to a serviced apartment. The impact is also not limited to the lower end of the hotel sector as some might suspect, especially in the leisure segment.
The positive impact on demand for serviced apartments also risks being short-lived. Particularly if homestay successfully tackles concerns over safety and standards. And with home rental sites being snapped up by both global hotel brands and OTAs, we are likely to see some interesting evolutions of the offering in future.
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