Chip Conley is the head of global hospitality and strategy at Airbnb. At DMAI’s 2016 convention, Conley shared his story of going from hotelier (he founded the award-winning, boutique hotel company, Joie de Vivre Hospitality) to innovation chief, along with panelists from domestic and international destinations who have taken the risk to work with Airbnb. Each speaker revealed how and why they believe working with, rather than against, Airbnb is in everybody’s best interest.
For the past 27 years, Chip has been a force of innovation in the hospitality industry; he’s overseen the creation and management of 52 boutique hotels and won numerous awards for innovation in customer service and leadership.
From home share to time share to boutique hotels, game-changers have taken the industry by surprise. Each of these new trends catches a wave, because it fills a customer void, and that’s what happened with Airbnb. When it first appeared, much like many other trends, people dismissed it as something that wasn’t here to stay.
“But now hotels are realizing home sharing isn’t going away,” Conley said.
Why isn’t it going away? There are tens of millions of idle rooms and mattresses around the world. There is supply. Creating a trusted platform with peer-to-peer review provides a strong foundation to keep Airbnb and other home-sharing networks around.
Proving a Need
There weren’t enough hotel rooms for the amount of attendees coming to watch World Cup in Brazil two years ago, so Airbnb was called upon to help; to reach out to home owners to open their homes during that period for hopeful guests.
“That was a win, win, win. It was a win for locals who got the revenue. It was a win for the guests who got to experience the city. And it was a win for the environment because we didn’t have to waste resources building hotels that would be mothballed,” Conley said.
Conley told the audience at DMAI that not only does Airbnb wish to be a regulated industry and pay a hotel tax; they’re also more than willing to share the data they gather for every town about the tourism that occurs there. By emailing email@example.com, they will provide data on your community. He argues that the market that uses Airbnb is not taking guests away from hotels, because those who use the service would not otherwise book a hotel. They’re looking for a cheaper alternative, or none at all.
— Laurie Paolicelli (@lauripaolicelli) August 2, 2016
Joe D’Alessandro, president & CEO San Francisco Travel Association, explained that 75 percent of hotels in San Francisco are located downtown, and conversely, 75 percent of Airbnb hosts are outside of downtown. Attendees coming into the city for a convention will stay at a hotel while downtown, but may extend their stay and move to an Airbnb.
“We don’t fight what the community wants,” explained D’Alessandro, a sentiment he echoed several times during the presentation. “If the community wants this, we’re behind it.”
Isaac Mizrachi, Director of Tourism Tel Aviv Global, agreed that the guests using the service aren’t taking sales away from hotels.
“We’re able to host tourists who wouldn’t have come otherwise,” Mizrachi said. “It [Airbnb] put us on the travel destination map. It targeted millennial tourists for us.”
Two projects spawned from Tel Aviv’s bond with Airbnb: an online travel guide of the city’s neighborhoods, and a series of seminars between current Airbnb hosts and future hosts. Today in the small city, there are over 8,000 active Airbnb listings.
Board Member Backlash
Martha Sheridan, president & CEO of Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau, shared her own experience pitching the idea of a partnership to a less-than-enthused board of CVB members.
Sheridan didn’t see Airbnb as competition because she saw hotel revenue continue to elevate year after year. They experience high occupancy times like in spring around graduation and Airbnb has proven to be a viable options that allows hundreds of new visitors into the city if hotels are booked up. And guests staying at Airbnb homes are still spending money in the destination, going to restaurants and events.
The sharing economy isn’t new, but it is growing. Conley stated that there are almost 2.5 million listings on Airbnb today; more than Hilton, Marriott and Intercontinental hotels, combined.
As D’Alessandro said, “If we resist the evolution of the industry, we’re going to lose.”