What if Airbnb built a hotel? Ian Schrager said on stage at this year’s BLLA conference that, in some ways, Airbnb is the boutique hotel of one. So, what if Airbnb became the boutique hotel of many?
If Airbnb builds a hotel they will leverage their platform to provide accommodations and services more uniquely tailored to guests and with much greater cost efficiency.
What might that look like…?
100% Direct Booking…
In the case of most hotels there is no significant advantage for the traveler to book direct, rather than through an OTA, and hotels have lost customer loyalty and revenue as a result. However, just as Airbnb now facilitates booking, guest-host communication, travel planning, and feedback all within the same interface, booking direct with the Airbnb hotel would be the only logical option. In fact, guests would be compelled to do so – as their own traveler score would depend on it (just like with Uber, the consumer also gets a score).
Not Even The Same Building…
Not constrained to the form factor of a traditional hotel, this is where, from a design perspective, things could get really interesting; the notion of a hotel all in one building or specific area need no longer apply. Indeed, the Airbnb hotel could be completely decentralized across an entire area. With every room different, the Airbnb hotel would escape the generic by default.
Local Hotspots As Public Spaces…
In keeping with Airbnb’s mission to have their guests “belong anywhere,” guests of the Airbnb hotel would all be served unique, authentic experiences, perfectly tailored to their local surroundings. Instead of a basement gym and the hotel restaurant, Airbnb’s hotel’s amenities and facilities would be provided by partnerships to the coffee shops, fitness studios and other local public spaces guests would want to access. The Airbnb hotel would accomplish this in a way that can’t be scaled even by the most luxury of hotel brands or achieved at any sort of reasonable price point with a traditional hotel business model. How many hotels can boast an Equinox as a gym?
All The Services With No Staff To Manage…
This is where Airbnb’s position as a platform becomes its true strength.
With an Airbnb hotel, traditional cost-centers like F&B would be turned into revenue generating opportunities by outsourcing to local providers (which would be more suited to cater to the diverse set of guest tastes). At the Airbnb hotel, every meal would be made to order, with the “hotel” accruing a small fee with every transaction.
All other services could be similarly outsourced to the best local providers. The Airbnb hotel spa, for example, would be achieved through an integration with on-demand providers like Zeel, for massages, and Drybar, for blowouts.
Additionally, the Airbnb hotel would have no need for a full-time staff, and would reap all the cost-savings that provides.
Instant Feedback On Everything
More often than not, hotels have to turn to third-party sites like TripAdvisor to learn about their guests’ experiences, and almost always, it’s after guests have already left. With Airbnb owning the entire journey, leaving feedback and learning from it would be as seamless as all the other components of the Airbnb hotel experience. The current model of providing feedback at hotels is uneven. At the Airbnb hotel, with 100% of guests on the platform, feedback mechanisms can be built into the experience throughout a guest’s stay, so each element of the trip can be continuously optimized. Think rating your Uber driver but for every step of the journey.
Ever since Airbnb expanded its sights from a couple of air mattresses in its founders’ apartment to the global marketplace for travelers and homeowners it is today, its chief advantage over incumbent hospitality players (hotels) has been that it isn’t a hotel. Indeed, Airbnb has become the world’s largest accommodation provider despite not owning any real estate; the world’s largest hotel chain without owning a single hotel.
What Airbnb does have though is incredibly valuable. As a technology company, Airbnb has grown through its platform approach to hospitality: the company has both matched supply (underutilized accommodations) with demand (travelers seeking authentic experiences), as well as unified the entire travel experience (from discover to feedback).
Many of the hallmarks of the Airbnb experience at this point are in fact on par with, if not superior to the guest experience you would receive at a hotel of the same price point. It’s not too farfetched therefore to consider what an Airbnb hotel would look like, were the company to completely own the guest journey from booking, through stay, to leaving a review.
As it happens, we might not have to imagine what that would look like much longer. Fast Company broke news earlier this week of Airbnb’s first foray into lodging – a communal housing development in the small Japanese town of Yoshino – which led us to think… What would an Airbnb hotel look like given its technological platform model and what advantages would this have over a traditional hotel?
Curious about the platform approach to service delivery and how to leverage it at your hotel? We’ve worked with Skift to identify how hotels can best leverage the power of a platform to improve their operations. Download “Hospitality’s New Platform Paradigm” for free.