Eye on Hospitality: Hotels Upping Their Tech Game to Beat Airbnb

Eye on Hospitality: Hotels Upping Their Tech Game to Beat Airbnb https://wahospitality.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/shutterstock_534684679.jpg

By Paul Schlienz

 

Airbnb is on every hotelier’s mind. And for good reason.

For anyone who hasn’t been paying attention, Airbnb is an online marketplace and hospitality service. It enables people to lease or rent short-term lodging including vacation rentals, apartment rentals, homestays, hostel beds or hotel rooms. The company does not own any lodging; it is merely a broker and receives percentage service fees or commissions from both guests and hosts in conjunction with every booking. It has more than 3 million lodging listings in 65,000 cities and 191 countries. Under the Airbnb system, the cost of lodging is set by the host.

This has hurt hotel operators. Hotel pricing is down due to Airbnb’s influence, most notably, in many places during holidays, conventions and other big events when room rates would normally be at their highest and where hotels generate a significant portion of their profits, according to Vijay Dandapani, chief executive of the Hotel Association of New York City, an affiliate of the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

“No one knows what Airbnb’s impact is,” Sean O’Neill wrote in Skift. “But our contrarian take is that it’s greater than what most hoteliers think — and accelerating by the day. Yet it’s manageable if hotels act strategically.”

And hotels are acting strategically to meet the Airbnb challenge.

One of the main ways hotels are responding to Airbnb is by improving their technology. To meet ever growing guest expectations, 54 percent of hotels will spend more on technology this year, according to Hotel Technology. Hotels’ biggest priorities for technology spending, in order, are: payment security, guest room tech, bandwidth, and mobile engagement.

Mobile solutions will dominate the list of hotels’ capital investments this year — six of the top new rollouts have a mobile component, including mobile keys, mobile payments and location-based technology. Additionally, improving data accessibility and security is high on hotels’ to-do lists.

“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,” said Benjamin Habbel, the founder of Voyat, an ecommerce optimization platform. “Nothing beats the logged in experience of using the Airbnb app. You get personalized recommendations. Pages on the app load quickly. 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 finalize a transaction.”

But hotels also need to keep in mind that they have some real advantages over Airbnb.

“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,” said Habbel. “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.”

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Tags: Airbnb