Speak­ing Out: the shar­ing econ­omy

The Business Travel Magazine - - Arrivals Contents -

For­get what you thought about Airbnb threat­en­ing tra­di­tional ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions – its growth has re­vi­talised the sec­tor, writes John Wag­ner, Co-founder of Cy­cas Hos­pi­tal­ity

When the shar­ing econ­omy first be­gan to en­ter our con­scious­ness, many tra­di­tion­ally-minded busi­nesses went into panic mode. There’s no doubt that the ho­tel in­dus­try didn’t know how to re­act to the in­tro­duc­tion of global home-shar­ing site Airbnb, which fast be­came the poster child for this economic revo­lu­tion.

Fast-for­ward a decade and the tourism sec­tor has a lot to thank this ac­com­mo­da­tion pioneer for. For a start, by com­bin­ing con­ve­nience and cost-ef­fec­tive­ness with book­ing sim­plic­ity, it helped make travel more ac­ces­si­ble. And, by en­cour­ag­ing more peo­ple of all ages to broaden their hori­zons in the com­fort of a home away from home, Airbnb has changed con­sumer be­hav­iour.

More im­por­tantly, it also helped trig­ger main­stream aware­ness of an al­ter­na­tive to tra­di­tional ho­tels and gave the self-cater­ing ser­viced apart­ment sec­tor a wel­come boost.

So, while 2008 saw Airbnb wel­come its first cus­tomers, it also opened the door for ex­tended-stay brands such as Stay­bridge Suites – which were al­ready suc­cess­ful in North Amer­ica – to cross the At­lantic.

Ac­cord­ing to the As­so­ci­a­tion of Ser­viced Apart­ment Providers (ASAP), the UK ex­tended-stay in­dus­try is set for a record 17% in­crease in sup­ply this year, mak­ing ser­viced apart­ments one of the fastest­grow­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion sec­tors.

At the same time, de­spite the in­tro­duc­tion of Airbnb for Busi­ness to bet­ter cater for cor­po­rate travel clients, one STR re­port suggests that Airbnb guests are “pri­mar­ily leisure-ori­ented” and that use by busi­ness trav­ellers ac­counts for just 15% of the com­pany’s book­ings.

Much has been made of Airbnb’s ap­peal to hy­per­con­nected mil­len­nial trav­ellers seek­ing au­then­tic ex­pe­ri­ences and the chance to live like a lo­cal. Aside from th­ese terms help­ing make buzz­word bingo more fun, many ho­tel groups have re­sponded pos­i­tively to bet­ter serve this grow­ing de­mo­graphic, whether they’re trav­el­ling on busi­ness or for leisure. For ex­am­ple, Res­i­dence Inn’s ‘Take Res­i­dence’ pro­gramme of free events, from food to fit­ness, are hosted by lo­cal res­i­dents to bring a des­ti­na­tion to life.

Duty of care and trav­eller safety rightly re­main top pri­or­i­ties for cor­po­rates, so it’s easy to un­der­stand why travel man­agers ap­pre­ci­ate the re­li­able ser­vice, con­sis­tent stan­dards and cen­tral lo­ca­tions typ­i­cally of­fered by branded apartho­tels and apart­ment providers.

And, with in­creas­ing pres­sure on city coun­cils to reg­u­late Airbnb’s im­pact on res­i­den­tial hous­ing, there’s some un­cer­tainty around its fu­ture. Lit­tle won­der that a PWC sur­vey in­di­cated con­sumers were 34% more likely to trust a lead­ing ho­tel brand than Airbnb.

There’s still a big op­por­tu­nity for more cor­po­rate trav­ellers to save money while com­bin­ing the flex­i­bil­ity of home with clas­sic ho­tel ser­vices. Af­ter all, with ASAP sug­gest­ing guests can en­joy 30% more space in a ser­viced apart­ment than in its ho­tel equiv­a­lent, what’s not to like?

Airbnb has trig­gered aware­ness of an al­ter­na­tive to main­stream ho­tels and given ser­viced apart­ments a wel­come boost”

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