The true impact of the sharing economy and alternate-lodging providers, as led by Airbnb, has yet to be felt in Canada. While we’ve had a strong couple of years from a RevPAR and occupancy-growth standpoint, rest assured these numbers have been buoyed by the healthy economy and we may suffer if there’s another downturn.
Rather than be an unwavering harbinger of doom for our hospitality industry, I try to take a proactive approach to any new entrant or competitor. Now that these alternate-lodging providers have started to push into other market segments — such as Airbnb for Work (business-travel management) making significant headway into the corporate-travel world — it’s time to emulate these disruptors in order to build modern hotel products that can compete on more than just price.
One of the reasons the sharing economy has grown in leaps and bounds over the past decade is operators on these digital platforms are able to provide guests with experiences hotels have yet to properly facilitate. Travellers want to be embedded in the community and live like locals. They want interesting spaces, access to great food and to visit places and interact with their environments in bold and interesting ways. In short, they want memories.
Where traditional hotels have an insurmountable advantage over any bed and breakfast is in their ability to wield capital for new projects and improvements that work towards delivering on guest desires. While single-unit operators may be more agile insofar as guestroom upgrades or other tactical executions, they’ll never be able to implement new features or amenities outside of their immediate cashflow.
Taking this principle to heart, hotels can disrupt the travel landscape by offering truly unique experiences for their guests. Give guests something they won’t find anywhere else and make it easy for them to purchase.
For example, hotels can bundle room nights with onsite F&B, spa, gifts, tours or any other activities they already have. It’s this last point that requires further clarification because guests the world over are looking for fun and memorable things to do. Moreover, your guests’ daily lives are already busy enough, so they’ll reward the hotel that’s able to make their jobs easy by handling all the specific arrangements.
In devising which activities or experiences to offer guests, it’s always best to start small and focus on one or two core experiences that have an authentic precedent with your property and surrounding area. Every property is different, which makes this exercise both exhaustive and rewarding.
Once you have an enticing slate of packages with unique experiences, the next step is how you present them to your prospective customers. Ideally, you want your website to handle the bulk of your bookings as it reduces the workload of your reservation agents while preventing any reductions to your margins from external commissions. For this, a simple, straightforward and mobile-first presentation will suffice.
Thinking in terms of how you can learn from these new-age disruptors in terms of what experiences you provide for your guests can help your hotel have a healthy future.