By Martin Soler

A while back, I shared a post on LinkedIn where I pointed out that, from a digital guest experience perspective, Airbnb is miles ahead of the hotel industry. I warned that if hotels don’t step up their tech game, they might lose customers to Airbnb because, let’s face it, the experience is just a lot smoother.

That post stirred up some interesting reactions, with people defending their preference for hotels over Airbnb, complaining about Airbnb’s cleaning fees, and so on. But it seemed like most folks missed the whole point.

It’s not about Airbnb vs. hotels or one taking over the other – we’ve moved beyond that. We all know there’s room for both. It’s about recognizing that when it comes to technology, Airbnb has the advantage. Their digital experience is simpler and more efficient, from booking to leaving, while hotels often require multiple repetitive transactions – such as payments.

Some argue that the “human touch” justifies these inefficiencies, but let’s be real – nobody likes discussing payments. That’s not a positive interaction for anyone. What we should focus on is using technology to remove friction points and streamline the guest experience.

Take McDonald’s, for example, I know you’re cringing just reading their name in an article about hotels. But when they introduced kiosks for ordering, they reduced queues and repurposed staff for table service. As a result, they’ve improved both efficiency and the human touch. Nobody wants to hold up a line discussing burger options, right?

Nowadays, our digital lives are becoming more and more integrated, especially at home. We used to think of hotels as offering a superior experience, with high-end tech and luxurious furnishings. But that’s not really the case anymore. Home tech has surpassed what most hotels offer, with smart lighting, climate control, and entertainment systems.

It is safe to assume that today’s travelers expect their accommodations to have the same or better technology than they have at home. Hotels need to catch up on the digital side of the guest experience. Yes, it’s more challenging for hotels to upgrade and innovate due to constraints like security and infrastructure, but guests want convenience. They’re used to it at home, and they expect it while traveling.

The point I wanted to make in my original post is that if hotels don’t adapt and improve their tech game, they’ll lose out to platforms like Airbnb. Guests will gravitate towards the more convenient option.

So, no, it’s not about hotels vs. Airbnb. It’s about who can provide the most convenient experience for guests, and a huge part of that is through their mobile devices. Airbnb seems to have figured this out – but have hotels?

In my opinion, hotels should create a new role: Guest Experience Designers. These professionals would focus on crafting the most seamless and enjoyable guest journey by leveraging technology, training, interior design, sourcing, and more. It’s time for hotels to step up and embrace the digital transformation. It’s not just about survival – it’s about thriving in the age of convenience.

Let’s not forget that embracing technology doesn’t mean losing the human touch. Rather, it frees up hotel staff to focus on creating memorable guest experiences instead of getting bogged down in administrative tasks.

We’re at a cross roads now, where technology has become so important to our daily lives (and is about to get even more so) that hotels need to hurry up. Get rid of old legacy tech, invest in new solutions that can deal with all the new tech that is about to come.