Friday, 22 July 2016

* Hotels vs. Airbnb: Let the battle begin

Elaine Glusac
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.”

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.

“The way this consumer likes to travel is not to spend time in the guest room but to have access to communal spaces,” said Tina Edmundson, global brand officer of luxury and lifestyle brands at Marriott International, which just opened Moxy New Orleans, its second American Moxy hotel.
Moxy’s rooms (from $69) are compact, and entry is keyless, connected via a smartphone app. The lobby has a full-service bar, grab-and-go food, games and plenty of outlets for charging electronic devices.

Hyatt Hotels & Resorts’ new brand Hyatt Centric is testing fresh approaches to things like room service. At three trial hotels, guests can order in from hotel restaurants, an express menu of sandwiches and salads delivered in 20 minutes, or through the delivery service GrubHub and have the meal charged to the room.

Managers empower employees to connect with guests on a more casual basis, offering local tips not unlike an Airbnb host.

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