With 150 million users, over half a million hosts and a valuation of over $30 billion – it’s no surprise Airbnb has an edge over hotels.
And that edge is: technology. Hotels need to act strategically to stay relevant – Airbnb had four million listings worldwide last week.
And that may mean it has “more active listings than any of the five largest hotel brands have rooms,” according to Skift.
Active listings means than units have to be rented at least once a month – and according to some experts, hotels will, or are, losing out against Airbnb because the digital experience is lacking on their sites and booking platforms.
Hotel staff may interact with guests in real life (in contrast to most Airbnb listings) but according to the founder of e-commerce optimisation platform Voyat, Benjamin Habbel, hotels need to invest in both the digital experience and the real-life experience.
“The overall strategy for an independent hotel or a brand is to make the most of the thing that they have that Airbnb doesn’t have, which is they actually interact with the guest in real life,” Habbel told Skift.
“They have the opportunity to extend and amplify that interaction by using chat-based or other tools before or after a stay to communicate with a guest, for example,” he added.
He also praised the Airbnb app when compared with hotel booking systems.
“From a technology standpoint, the number-one way to compete with Airbnb is for hotels to get their act together on design and e-commerce.”
“Nothing beats the logged in experience of using the Airbnb app,” Habbel told Skift.
“You get personalised recommendations. Pages on the app load quickly.”
So with younger generations looking to book online or through an app, Airbnb seems to be the easier option – there are listings in 65,000 cities and 191 countries, with accommodation options ranging from someone’s couch to luxe New York apartments.
But Mark Morrison, Vice President of Owner Strategy and Services at Expedia, says that hotels can win out against Airbnb by solving a few simple glitches.
“Families and other groups sometimes like to have rooms side-by-side. But because most hotels don’t have the technology to make it easy to book guaranteed connected room, consumers turn to Airbnb,” he told Skift.
Habbel also said there was hope for hotels – if they act strategically.
“Hotels need to steal basic things out of the Airbnb and online travel agency playbooks, like making their webpages load quickly on mobile devices and reducing the number of clicks it takes to finalise a transaction.”