Have you looked out your window recently? If so, and you happened to see pigs flying by, this might not have been the most surprising occurence of your day if you work in the world of travel and accommodations. You see, there are early signs of a thawing in relations between hotels and their arch nemesis: alternative accommodations like Airbnb.
The signals have subtly been appearing for quite some time. From Hyatt’s investment in onefinestay in 2014, to Accor’s purchase of the same company two years later, and from Accor’s investment in Oasis in 2016 to Hyatt’s purchase of that stake from them a year later, some of the biggest hotel companies in the world have not been sitting idly by as innovation in the world of accommodation occurs around them. That being said, buying into the space is one thing. Actively promoting it is quite another.
And yet, that appears to be the direction in which we are now headed. In a marketing email from Hyatt to its loyalty members on October 4, the 11th largest hotel company in the world promoted none of its own traditional hotel brands, rather focusing the email on praising the merits of home rentals. Specifically the email lauded Oasis for providing “the comfort and authenticity of home rentals with the service and amenities of a hotel.”
The move appears to be a savvy one. While other hotel companies are increasingly digging in their heels to fight the progress and innovation brought by alternative accommodations, Hyatt seems to be taking this opportunity to better understand why alternative accommodations are growing so popular in the first place. Their closer look into the space has taught them something important.
Alternative accommodations are not popular because of some unfair business practices on the part of the companies within it like Airbnb, VRBO, or Oasis. Rather, alternative accommodations are popular because they provide guests with something different, and in many ways better than what hotels have traditionally offered them. When done properly, these alternative accommodations offer an alternative to hotels that is not “less than,” but rather provide guests with an experience that many find more desirable.
There are lessons in this for hotels and alternative accommodation providers alike. For hotels the lesson is to stop fighting against the world around you, and start listening to, and better understanding your customers and what they want. People love the convenience, the professionalism, and the amenities of hotels. That is a great advantage. At the same time, they increasingly seek out authentic and unique experiences. Old school cookie cutter hotels have a hard time providing this. Something new and different will be required.
For those in alternative accommodations the lesson is that being alternative and unique is not enough in and of itself. As Hyatt points out in its email, travelers love the amenities, and in terms of services, the predictability and consistency hotels are able to provide them. Being able to bring this consistency in service, while still delivering an authentic and unique experience is not easy. However, for those who are able to successfully do it, the rewards are enormous.
How long these two sides will be able to play nice is still up for debate, but watch this space, as well as the skies for any cloud-chasing swine.