After booking a stay in Lisbon with their new app, it is quite clear to me why Airbnb is challenging the lodging industry like no other service has ever done. With more 800,000 listings in more than 34,000 cities and 190 countries, Airbnb provides a new travel experience: staying in another person’s home. I must say that Airbnb is in different league than the usual hotel chains. This is why:
1) Easy-to-understand concept
For travellers, the advantages of booking rooms with locals rather than hotels. For hosts, the chance to monetizing empty space. It is said that Silicon Valley startups are pitching investors with one liners such as: “This is the Airbnb of…”
2) Short term stays become personal experiences
Breaking the hotel category, Airbnb took service to another level. Now that hotels in the mid range segment care mainly about saving costs, Airbnb has turned a business that was getting more and more mechanical into a host-guest relationship, with easy booking and wide availability.
3) They made it digital for you and me
We are Generation X, Y, Millennials… Despite being the most traveled generation in history and fully digital, the hotel industry did not deliver a simple global booking system as the airline booking industry has done. Airbnb filled the gap and understood that good service starts in the potential guest’s smartphone via a smooth digital search and booking solutions. In my Airbnb app, my bookings, payment records and correspondence with the host or hostess are just a click away.
4) They made it local
A desire for genuine local experiences when travelling has been a growing trend in recent decades. International hotel chains provided a safe standard experience when you are away from home. But many people want to get close to the local reality and get unique experiences they can share on social media. The independent boutique hotels understood this trend and provided a good option in the premium class segment. Premium chains are now refurbishing standard hotels into boutique hotels in order to get a bite of the cake. But travellers who want local experiences but lack that buying power was almost forgotten. Airbnb filled that local solution in the medium segment, offering global service,
5) They made it happen
In the tough tech business, Airbnb succeeded in monetizing the Sharing Economy. Many other startups tried, but only a few succeeded and scaled up internationally, Airbnb and Uber are at the top of the list and are both admired and envied.
6) Popularity may overcome local resistance
One of the most controversial aspects of Airbnb is how they deal with local regulations. The race is about becoming popular enough with users to a point where local administrators can no longer sustain a ban on a popular service. The City of San Francisco ended up making a deal to regulate the short-term stays business last year. It became the blueprint for other cities: Rolling out the product as fast as possible expecting that regulations will follow later.
What we’re looking at now is just his first act of an unfinished game. We will see how the hotel business will play its next card and show its strengths globally.