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Tim Peter

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June 9, 2015

How Safe Are Independent Hotels from Airbnb?

June 9, 2015 | By | No Comments

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Independent hotels vs. Airbnb

Skift provided a great round-up from a BLLA conference panel this past week, but gave the world’s worst headline, saying, “Boutique Hotel Leaders Say Airbnb Is No Match For Their Service and Experiences”.

Which, of course, is a load of nonsense.

Now, to be fair, the panelists provided a much more nuanced response to the Airbnb question than that headline suggests. For instance, as Niki Leondakis, CEO of Commune Hotels + Resorts said,

“…I think we better be eyes wide open about Airbnb …it’s reminiscent of 2001, 2002, 2003 when we were all watching the OTAs and going ‘holy crap these guys are going to chew up our business.'”

Exactly. I want to be clear here. There’s no guarantee that Airbnb will chew up your business. But there’s also no guarantee that they won’t — especially if you sit idly by and assume that there’s no way Airbnb can compete. Because that’s nonsense too.

As Ms. Leondakis says,

“…[Airbnb] is going to take a chunk and they are going to take a piece of the pie and be part of our lives. We have to recognize that and we have to be nimble and respond to that which I think our segment has a better ability to do.”

A couple weeks back when I’d asked, “Are Hotel Brands Doomed?” I said “[…independent hotels are] likely the big winners in the longer-term (and the rise of new entrants in the soft-brand space suggests I’m not the only one who thinks that).” And I stand by that. I love independent hotels and think they offer amazing value to their guests, every single day. But I continued in that post by saying,

“The key [to winning] revolves around avoiding ‘commoditization.’ Your hotel is special. Truly. Either because of location, or amenities, or brand, or service or a combination of all of the above, you can offer your guests an experience no one else can.

Look outside the industry. We all know that cell phones are largely a commodity, right? Yet, what Apple has shown is that you can create a strong brand — and, more importantly, charge a premium price — even in heavily commoditized markets. And perhaps no greater example of this exists in history than Morton’s Salt. Most customers probably couldn’t tell the difference between various brands of good ol’ NaCl but still appear willing to pay more for the brand they’ve known their whole lives. And if cell phones and salt can differentiate themselves, surely your hotel can.”

I’ve met Airbnb hosts working to differentiate their offering as well as a number of technology/management/marketing firms dedicated to helping them deliver on that differentiation (of course, all of this ignores the professional “hosts” in Airbnb’s ecosystem that already operate as boutique/independent hotels and merely use Airbnb as their primary distribution channel). Ignore Airbnb and your hotel won’t be safe at all. Very few of those folks take winning for granted. They’re working hard to offer their guests — your guests — a warm, welcoming, and entirely authentic experience.

Didn’t that used to be your job?

Don’t let them win this game. Stay nimble, stay humble, and stay focused. Build out your brand’s story and then deliver on that story, every day. Do all that well and Skift’s headline won’t be nonsense. It will be a guarantee.

If you’re looking to learn even more about how changing guest behavior shapes hospitality marketing, e-commerce, and distribution, be sure an register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also want to take a moment to review the slides from my recent webinar, “Digital Marketing Directions 2015: Three Key Trends Driving Your Hotel Marketing Next Year” here:


(And, yes… you can hire me to speak at your next event, too).

Finally, you will definitely want to check out some of our past coverage of the mobile, local, social web and how to make it work for your business, including:

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