There was a time, not too long ago when the idea of staying in a stranger’s bed for a few days while you’re on vacation was very very resistible…until Airbnb came along. When founded in 2008, Airbnb had to overcome major negative perceptions to make their business model work. Today, the company has over 1,500,000 listings in 34,000 cities and 190 countries. Pretty legit. With that kind of success, hotel chains would be wise to start thinking about how Airbnb became such an almost overnight success (no pun intended), and what they can do to stay relevant and exciting in this new age of travelling. So what exactly is it that makes Airbnb so irresistible, and how can hotel chains compete?
- Airbnb is not just travelling…it’s an experience. And it’s unlike anything that was available to travellers before. When a consumer stays in an Airbnb, they experience what it’s like to actually live in and explore someone else’s world, As the copy in the latest Airbnb commercial says it best: “Is man kind? Are we good? Go see. Go look through their windows so you can understand their views. Sit at their table so you can share their tastes. Sleep in their beds so you may know their dreams. Go see. And find out just how kind the he’s and she’s of this mankind are.” When the destination of your choosing starts to feel like home, you know you’ve had an Airbnb experience. Hotels can’t quite get there, but they can certainly start paying more attention to providing the highly personalized experience consumers appear to be smitten with.
- Airbnb has tapped into the desire for authenticity, something that most hotel chains are sorely lacking. For example, a friend and I travelled to Austin and stayed in an Airbnb this past February. When we arrived, there was homemade banana bread and our hosts, Bill & Melissa, kindly gave us a tour of their farm. They had a goose named “Gus” and a humungous hound dog. They then offered to let us watch the “‘coon feeding” at sunset, where about twenty raccoons gather to be fed by Bill. That true authenticity is an experience hotels will be hard pressed to recreate, but they can definitely go beyond generic rooms with generic amenities.
- Local. Local. Local. Airbnb taps into the loving what’s local craze and the desire to truly experience the culture. Staying in a house, “feeling” cities and towns the way locals do, from coffee shops to food shopping to cooking- those are the kinds of things that have travelers (especially millennials) so excited. It’s this incredibly appealing sense of discovery that hotels might want to think about if they want to keep their share of consumers.
So, why is Airbnb so irresistible? The answer is simple: they have mastered the art of experience, authenticity, and discovery. If hotels could start providing these same benefits, it would make customers more excited to stay with them, which would in turn make them more loyal and likely to return. Hotels need to become not just a place to stay, but a place that makes “going” even more fun.