Speaking Out: the sharing economy
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”