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The claim that Airbnb has taken some demand away from major hotel groups is indisputable, but the significance and depth of its long-term impact on the industry is yet to be determined.
“I think for us to say we’re not concerned or focused on Airbnb, would be very short-sighted,” Simon Turner, president of global development at Starwood Hotels and Resorts, said during a panel discussion at the 36th Annual New York University International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference in Manhattan June 3.
Turner then compared the risks that Airbnb poses, which is primarily wooing guests and market share away from the major hotel brands, to the same concerns that executives felt at one time about video conferences and online booking sites like Expedia.
When each of these disrupting influences entered the market, hotel executives feared the impact they would have on their meetings and conference business, as well as their loyalty programs and booking margins.
Rather than causing the hotel industry to crash, the innovations became just one piece of the larger industry.
Yes, meetings do take place online, but they haven’t replaced conferences. And, third-party booking sites have indeed eaten into hotel chains’ margins as leisure travelers often use third-party booking sites instead of the hotel’s direct booking portal.
But the major hotel players have adapted, and maintained their position in the industry.
Turner sums up his views by describing the industry as a number of pieces that fit together, and Airbnb as the newest piece to join the puzzle.
“You can’t ignore it, but I don’t think it’s the death bell of the hotel industry either,” Turner concluded.
Kirk Kinsell, IHG president of the Americas, said he groups Airbnb in with the international hotel group’s other competitors, which he defines as any place where people stay that takes share away from his hotels.
Kinsell goes one step further to bring up the tax issues and security concerns that most critics have voiced about the peer-to-peer rental platform.
“I think it’s something we should mindful of and something we should join arms around,” Kinsell said.
Despite the fact that Airbnb is such a hot topic at the conference, organizers confirmed to Skift that Airbnb hadn’t been invited to address the conference.
“The planning committee first selects from sponsors since they contribute to student scholarships,” a conference spokesperson said.