Airbnb Growing in Scope – and Controversy
Airbnb is a hot topic. Praise, condemnation and controversy is flooding the travel industry, with hotels especially watching their every move out of an effort to evaluate the company as either a competitor or a potential partner.
So, this week, we’re giving you an overview of what the sharing community has been up to lately and how top hoteliers are currently evaluating it.
After looking at, essentially, some high-level gossip from the likes Hilton, Hyatt and Expedia on their views on Airbnb, we turn to some of their newest initiatives. Airbnb is dealing with ‘illegal hotels’ advertising on their site and are being urged to combat this – but are they being too soft in their actions? In other news, they are debuting digital ‘badges’ for hosts ready for business travelers and also looking to launch their ‘Experiences’ initiative, where hosts are compensated for acting as tour guides and hosting activities.
Ready? Let’s dive in.
Airbnb: potential distribution partner or industry threat? Some hotel companies and booking sites say neither, while others are keeping a watchful eye on both the positive and negative effects Airbnb may create.
“First stage is to ignore it, second stage is to ignore it, third stage is to panic, and fourth stage is complain,” consultant Robert Cole says. “But the kill it with fire approach toward Airbnb doesn’t make sense.”
This is partially stemming from ‘illegal hotels’ popping up on Airbnb’s listings – people placing entire buildings of apartments on the site as short-term rentals, and violating local laws in places like New York in the process.
While this isn’t a problem unique to Airbnb, and existed before the sharing site, the sharing community is taking steps to address it with their compact and vowing fairness, transparency and working with cities to prevent short-term rentals from impacting the availability of long-term housing.
In regards to the ‘community compact’ discussed above, Inc. makes the argument that the home-sharing startup is trying to fix a market problem with self-regulation, and it won’t work.
They make the cogent argument that Airbnb must decide whether it is a community or a market. Communities tend towards shared norms and common moralities, but markets function on efficiency.
Even if Airbnb works internally as a community for hosts and renters using it in good faith, it is part of a global market and, Inc. argues, leaves itself open to abuse by illegal hotels by not enforcing its “community compact” with consequences.
Airbnb is going mainstream in the next few weeks on its attempts to expand the product into new areas: namely activities and things to do. They’ve sent emails around, encouraging hosts to be one of ‘the first experience hosts,’ launching initially in San Francisco.
Essentially, this is the formalisation of a hosts-as-guides service on the site. Hosts will be able to earn more money for showing guests local sites or hosting activities for them.
This represents a further expansion of the services Airbnb offers, but one directed more at its core market – travelers seeking new, unique experiences and accommodation – than its recent efforts at capturing business travelers have been.
Yesterday, at its Airbnb Open conference, Airbnb announced a few new tools to help hosts and, in this case, business travelers.
As we know, Airbnb has been targeting work travelers with Airbnb for Business. Hosts can now get a “Business Travel Ready” badge for their listings to make it easier for business customers.
What does the badge mean? It guarantees a place will have Wi-Fi, a designated workspace, an iron and hair dryer and a strict policy when it comes to cancellations — hosts can’t cancel less than seven days before your stay.
What’s your opinion on these developments? Whether your answer is ‘good,’ ‘bad’ or ‘ugly,’ Airbnb seems here to stay – how will you be dealing with the company?