In its 2014 Global Hotel Guest Survey, hotel research consultancy BDRC Continental spoke of the ‘disruptive threat’ posed by Airbnb. “While its overall awareness remains limited (comparable with new-to-market hotel brand such as Hotel Indigo or Ibis Styles), engagement and interest among frequent travellers and generation Y hotel guests is high enough for it to be considered a threat” said research manager Leonie Bulman.
When asked how they felt about Airbnb, hoteliers speaking at the Boutique and Hotel Summit in London on 13 May said the level of threat mainly depended on the quality of the service provided by each hotel.
Ilse Crawford, owner of consultancy Studioilse, said: “It won’t threaten the good hotels, but the ones that don’t have value for money are in danger.”
While most hotel operators asserted they were ‘not worried’, everyone agreed that Airbnb was set to prompt a permanent change in the industry, in the way that online travel agents (OTAs) have. For example, delegates suggested that hotels could use Airbnb to sell suites.
“Airbnb will become as critical to our business model as OTAs have. It’s putting pressure on hotels to differentiate themselves even further,” added Niki Leondakis, CEO of Commune Hotels and Resorts.
Raising the bar
The BDRC survey also revealed that hotels have raised the bar in terms of guest experience by spending more on product enhancements, brand rationalising their properties and responding to consumer priorities such as free Wi-Fi.
James Bland, BDRC client services director, remarked that several hotel brand owners had invested heavily in marketing communications over the last 12 months, but that reaching a consumer now adept at screening out unwanted advertisements was proving a challenge for the industry, with overall awareness of hotel advertising flat or down.
The survey, which was conducted amongst 1,000 business travellers and 1,000 leisure travellers, pointed out that total demand for hotel rooms in Britain from British travellers increased by 2 per cent year-on-year, to around 108 million adult room nights, divided almost evenly between business and leisure stays.
The BDRC also revealed the winners of its annual brand performance awards, with Ibis Budget named the most improved brand for 2014. Hilton’s Doubletree and Hampton Inn / Hampton by Hilton stood out for their significant year-on-year progress. It was also a good year for IHG, with both Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express experiencing strong recoveries in the brand rankings.
Premier Inn was named number 1 brand in the leisure market, with Hilton retaining its lead position in the business market as well as overall.