Expert opinion: How can hoteliers win the reservations war with Airbnb?

Max Starkov, hotel technology consultant and strategist, explains how hotels can meet Airbnb’s challenge and win back customers in the post-Covid era.

There is no doubt that Airbnb has radically disrupted the travel industry and positioned itself as a single provider of private accommodation in the world. At the end of last year, Airbnb completed its highly anticipated IPO [initial public offering] and today, the company’s market capitalization exceeds US $ 120 billion, more than the combined market caps of the seven largest hotel chains: Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide, IHG, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Choice Hotels International, Hyatt Hotels Corporation and Accor.

In 2019, the last “normal” year of travel, Airbnb was able to absorb 10 to 15% of travel demand in many major metropolitan areas and leisure destinations. In 2020, Airbnb fared much better than many hoteliers, as the traveling public preferred to stay in self-contained accommodation without a host.

Let’s face it, there is a real “reservation war” between hotels and Airbnb for every guest and every night. Airbnb may have won the occupancy battle of 2020, but hoteliers can beat Airbnb at their own game and ultimately win the reservations war.

Ask first: why do travelers use Airbnb to start?

To name a few: expectations of privacy and a desire to avoid other travelers; amenities like kitchens, swimming pools and party patios; perceived value and lower cost per travel team member.

Hoteliers may not meet travelers’ expectations for privacy, but they can offer their own range of powerful counter arguments and tantalizing perks. Hoteliers should focus on and promote the features and amenities that Airbnb properties lack.

Here’s a simple, inexpensive action plan to help your property do just that.

Evaluate your property’s value proposition

I believe selling on value versus selling on price alone can compete with the attractiveness of Airbnb properties – villas, weekend homes, condos. To do this, hoteliers must remember and relearn how to sell purely on value versus price.

Start by researching Airbnb rental properties in your neighborhood. What are their typical amenities and features? Identify your property’s value proposition and create a list of your property’s amenities, services, and attributes that are better than the Airbnb average in your area.

Then review and update the descriptions of the properties on your website, social media profiles, CRS [customer relationship system] and WBE [website booking engine] descriptions, directory listings, GMB [Google My Business], and promotional material.

Make sure you educate your staff about the main advantages of your property over Airbnbs in the area, from a better location and no cleaning fees to better cleanliness protocols, wifi and breakfast. free lunch.

Provide better value

Promote cooking classes, weekend specials, anti-coronavirus packages, spa packages, family fun packages, wine tastings, F&B packages and promotions, and more. that you can use to target your local, short-haul, and drive-in food markets.

Create and offer special offers on suites. If you have rooms or suites with kitchenettes, fireplaces, hot tubs, etc., promote them vigorously. Promote your suites and adjoining / connecting rooms for family trips and family reunions.

One of the services that hoteliers often forget to promote is their F&B, and especially breakfast. Airbnb properties do not offer breakfast and do not keep the promise of the second “b” of the Airbnb brand! If your establishment offers free breakfast, promote it aggressively.

Another great service to brag about is early check-in and late check-out to accommodate guests’ arrival and departure times. In an Airbnb, you must check in by 4 p.m. at the earliest and leave by 11 a.m. at the latest.

Win on the prize

Airbnb is seen as a more cost effective option than hotels, but this is not the case with today’s hotel ADRs, and especially with the steep cleaning fees of $ 75 to $ 300 (!) Airbnb charges for each stay. Not charging a cleaning fee is a huge benefit that very few hotels enjoy today.

Start by introducing weekly and monthly rates for rooms and suites. How many hotels offer extended stay rates, which are preferred by travel consumers in the current pandemic? A weekly rate is not a daily rate multiplied by seven, and a monthly rate is not a night rate multiplied by 30! Make sure that your CRS, WBE and your channel manager can support the weekly and monthly tariffs.

If you haven’t already, please review and relax your cancellation policy. A “no questions asked” free cancellation policy goes a long way in these times of great uncertainty and is a definite competitive advantage over Airbnb’s rigid cancellation policies.

Promotional location

A big draw of Airbnb is that guests feel like locals staying in private homes and apartments. Fight that by spreading “live like a local” messages and creating packages that offer customers local restaurants, local hangouts, and free passes to public transport or Uber.

Airbnb is not always a safe option for travelers. Promote your safety and security benefits on the property’s website, social media, directory listings, etc.

Many hotels are located in sought-after tourist, cultural, entertainment and business centers, near or in major transport hubs. Showcase your location on your website homepage, CRS and WBE descriptions, feature it in all your directory listings, social media profiles, etc.

Vacation rentals do not appear when searching for accommodation in Google Maps because they are not considered a business entity by Google. Use it to your advantage and optimize your local Google My Business listing, upload photos, property and amenities descriptions, monitor and respond to Google reviews, and more.

Attractive to amenities

Hotels offer amenities that are not typically available in Airbnb rentals, including spa services, on-site restaurants, fitness centers, comfortable lobbies, conference and function rooms for business meetings. business, social events, formal and informal meetings and coworking spaces. More:

  • Reliable wifi / business centers. One of the hotel’s most underrated amenities is reliable high-speed wifi, which is the Achilles heel of any Airbnb property. Boast loud and clear about your property’s wifi speeds, whether it’s 200 Mbps, 400 Mbps or a cool 1 Gbps! Airbnb generally doesn’t charge for wifi, so my recommendation is that your property shouldn’t charge for wifi in this environment! In 2021, charging for wifi is like charging for hot water or for sheets and towels.
  • Cleanliness. Be sure to promote your property’s professional cleanliness protocols and contactless guest experience – infrared fever detection devices, clearly marked paths for guests in public areas, availability of PPE [personal protective equipment] and disinfectant wipes, self-service and check-in kiosks, etc. Very few Airbnb establishments use sophisticated cleaning technologies.
  • ADA and accessibility. Very few Airbnb listings are ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act]-conform.
  • Luggage store. Hotels often provide luggage storage so that guests can explore the destination without having to carry heavy bags; Airbnb hosts generally do not offer this service. Promote your free baggage storage information in amenities and services.
  • Rewards program. Despite all its claims, Airbnb’s SuperGuest reward program, which launched three years ago, is still in its infancy (and it seems they have been avoiding talking about this program as of late). If your establishment has an award program or a customer appreciation program, promote its benefits to the fullest on your WBE, CRS, etc., and even add new perks and perks inspired by the crisis. .

Muscle Marketing

To combat the negative effect Airbnb has on your property’s bottom line, you need to invest in an effective digital marketing strategy. Ask your PR firm and digital marketing agency to come up with “we’re better than Airbnb” PR, content marketing, and digital marketing plans, then fund those plans and get them executed.

Following the strategy outlined above and marketing it properly will allow you to stay competitive and win the reservations war with Airbnb.

This is an edited version of an article that appeared on the Hotel Recovery website.

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