I admire Airbnb. Their journey is fascinating and so indicative of today’s society. The slow moving hotel industry has largely failed to make significant changes in the past few decades and if they did, usually as a reaction to existing trends.
Rather than fighting a business valued at almost $30 billion dollars, Hoteliers should all look and see what we can learn from something that has taken travelers hearts by storm. Airbnb is a ground-breaking concept that created a new accommodation alternative, making people realize that they want something different.
Having spent the last 25years living and breathing the Hotel industry, observing many of my good friends turning to Airbnb as opposed to Hotels, I made it my mission to fully understand the reasons.
The key motivators and reasons for most of them to book Airbnb weren’t that surprising to be honest, and yet they are most relevant for how the Hotel industry needs to react and develop in future!
Unique, quirky, differentiated spaces as opposed to the cookie cutter hotel environments
90% of the time, most of us can draw a hotel room layout before entering the room and are right. In order to maximise space, hotels have been creating cookie cutter bedroom factories.
Travellers today seek experiences. They want to feel the beat of the city, understand its heart and soul and become part of its vibe. People want to understand the environment, its culture and feel that they are in the middle of it all. It’s not about 4 walls and a bed and a shower; it’s about living in a loft, a penthouse, a building with history, an amazing terrace, villas, barns or simply quirky unusual spaces, fantastic design, cozy pads and mind-blowing interiors.
The need for minimal service in favour of better rates
Travelers pay the price for services which are often unwanted and unnecessary, while the real needs and demands are often neglected – e.g. Overpriced Minibars with items that cannot be moved without being charged.
- Daily changing towels and linen
- 24hour room service consisting of bad microwave dishes
- On demand Pay TV
- Exuberantly priced Dry Cleaning and Laundry services
- Luggage Porters
- Slow Wi-Fi at a cost, breakfast for the price of 3 meals and so on, to name just a few.
A real experience, live like a local
The tried and tested is boring. The expected standard Concepts disappoint and lack excitement. They are predictable and exchangeable. Becoming part of the city and its people and not just being a visitor. Meeting neighbors and apartment owners who give insider advice. Spending time in spaces that are unique to the city or the environment. Being able to live something new and thrive on creates another dimension to the travel experience.
Find something they don’t have at home
Travelers are Experience Seekers, living moments and situations. They love sharing and indulge in new exposures. It is about breaking away from the norm and collects impressions that feed the body, mind and soul.
- Coming and going without being watched, observed and judged.
- No cameras and key cards that record every move. No shame in bringing in a plastic bag with snacks and drinks.
- Inviting friends and others whenever desired
- No disregarded DND signs and unwanted Minibar checks whilst taking a shower.
- No thin walls that feel like sharing a room with the unknown neighbour.
- No endless sign ups to Wi-Fi services requiring one to leave your resume and credentials. True privacy to just be who you want to be, especially when travelling, breaking away from dull everyday life is exciting, and wanted!
So what can Hotels do in future?
Architecture and Design needs to change
The ideal scenario is of course to develop, build, refurbish hotels creating a variety of different room options, with different sizes and features, designs and perks. Existing hotels obviously don’t have that luxury but they can personalise rooms with different designs and accessories and create unique spaces within the hotel. Tasks Designers to come up with concepts other than “one fits all” and allow guests to choose their environment. Introduce features that are Instagram worthy, provide talking points and enhance the experience such as hammocks provocative artwork or quirky furniture.
React to your environment and make use of its character, history and USPs. The idea of staying in a differently designed room every time might drive return visits and create a sense of discovery. This in turn also allows the hotels to really justify rate differences without shady excuses about booking volumes and benefits.
New Service concepts or ways how to provide Service
Get rid of costly minibars and room service, but provide carefully selected lists with delivery services. Offer free Internet with easy to use links for these services. Provide fridges with complimentary drinks or just empty ones so guests can fill them with their own selection of beverages bought at the supermarket next door. You might even throw in a branded bag and a list with recommended shops in close vicinity. Install a laundry room so travellers can wash their knickers and socks whilst having a drink at your bar, instead of using the sink or going to the laundromat next door! Provide separate entrances so people can bypass the Reception or at least provide an environment that lets them be and do what they want to, without being observed and judged.
Agree on cleaning schedules and give them choices when rooms will be serviced and towels changed. Close your hotel restaurants and arrange special deals in those hip and trendy venues around your hotel. Use that space for funky lounges to network, play and work. Make sure guests can use their own technology devices to stream music and their own content. Nobody wants to pay for movies or argue at the Front Desk whether they watched that adult movie or not!
Stop treating guests like they are a number.
Like being the only tenant in an Airbnb apartment, you have to make hotel guests feel as if it’s all about them – The genuine feeling of being the most important customer in this very moment. Special requests are not a nuisance but a perfect way to create a long lasting relationship and loyal return guests. The argument that large hotels cannot deliver customised stays and provide unique experience is simply untrue. They usually have more employees available than smaller independent hotels and simply need to rewrite job descriptions, change the mind-set and shift focus.
Change your processes
Give people choices and don’t just assign a room at your discretion. If possible do that at point of reservation or provide visual options at check in. Check in often consists of just collecting personal details such as credit card and passport. It usually feels like being vetted if indeed worthy to stay at the hotel, often emphasised by collecting security deposits and the need to sign documents with an encyclopaedia of fine print. With Airbnb you pay instantly at point of reservation or your credit card is charged 24 hours after checking in. Many people like the personal interaction upon arrival. Others often pressed for time prefer an automated check in. Whatever it is, not everyone likes the same thing so provide options and choices and look at things from a customer perspective first, and then make it work operationally.
We are a society that thrives on being individual. People’s living spaces vary considerably reflecting likes and preferences. Travel needs have changed and have shifted from the need of finding the known, tried and tested to experiencing, being inspired and amazed. With considerable investments into property and assets, companies need to find long term sustainable models to provide fresh, changing and differentiated concepts. It is imperative to have an open mind to change and look at how we can learn from successful businesses and adapt new ways to engage our custom
Behind the scenes: Dirk Dalichau is an enigmatic leader who inspires and challenges his team… . Influencer, disruptor with a never ending drive to evolve, improve and flourish.Proactively supportive of the HR agenda at every level and invested in the success and growth of our people. He is the COO of DNA Square Ltd. and helps to differentiate companies from their competition, analyses the business, identify areas for improvement and offers tangible solutions by – Defining a unique DNA to break away from the norm – Draft creative concepts for Hotels and Restaurants – Unleash people power driving both guest and employee satisfaction – Creating Design concepts that consist of an experience and yet work operationally – Identify, source and suggest a selection of Art Works in line with the company’s DNA and Budget – Visit your venues as a Mystery Guest – Hands On Management Suppport when Manpower is needed