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Hotels vs. VRBO’s: Who’s Destined to Win? (Travel Tuesday)

Hotels vs. VRBO's: Who will win?

There’s an interesting story over on Tnooz this week that highlights how frequently guests choose “shared accommodations.” But what’s really fascinating to me is the accelerating growth of VRBO’s altogether.

According to the Tnooz article (and data from PhoCusWright), something like 30% of all guests have used VRBO options, with roughly 10% of guests using a “shared accommodation” and another 20% renting entire properties. I doubt we’ll see those numbers slow down anytime soon. Given the rise of TripAdvisor’s Flipkey, Airbnb, Flipkey, and traditional vacation rental programs such as timeshares, guests will only become more comfortable with VRBO options over time. And I tend to agree with Skift when when they say,

“Rest assured that the competitive dynamics in the lodging industry will undergo tremendous changes in coming years and the big players are all maneuvering for advantage.”

Remember, some of these categories barely existed at all just a few short years ago.

So, how scared should you be?

Well, let’s keep in mind a couple things. First, If you manage your property correctly, branded hotels are not doomed and neither are independents.

Second, among the many real challenges that Airbnb-style accommodations providers face is the lack of knowledge among hosts on how to meet the needs of guests, as well as how to most effectively merchandise their offering. As professional hotel operators and marketers, you have a real opportunity to differentiate yourself and offer a more compelling product. VRBO’s rarely offer a consistent brand experience for their guests as they travel from destination to destination. Given that most hosts really aren’t in the business of professionally managing accommodations, it’s entirely possible that guests may have widely divergent experiences every time they travel. (Though, who are we kidding, unfortunately the same can be true with many hotels. So don’t do that.)

By focusing on the needs of your guests, working to meet those needs, and communicating how effectively you meet those needs, you have the ability to stand apart. By connecting with your community, you can offer your guests an experience every bit as authentic as those provided by the VRBO’s.

Or, you can sit back and do nothing.

One of these approaches has a future.

Does that mean it’s easy or that you face no pressures from VRBO’s in your market? Of course not. Savvy hosts, aided by professional property managers and committed sales and marketing platforms undoubtedly plan to improve the guest experience, before, during, and after their stay. Which is why you need to act and to improve your guests’ experiences, before, during, and after their stay, too. It doesn’t guarantee you’ll win every single battle. But, doing nothing makes it much easier for the other guys to win.

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:

Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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