Travelers are prioritizing experiences that can teach them something new and open their eyes –– meaning that hospitality brands and accommodations need to shift how they attract and appeal to guests.
In 2017, more than 330 million people visited the Airbnb website, searching the platform for accommodations that would best suit their trips and preferences, according to CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky. At the same time, Morgan Stanley’s 2017 AlphaWise survey found that “awareness of Airbnb is at an all time high.”
Neither last year’s number of site visitors, nor the report findings, should come as a surprise considering that two years ago, Skift’s research report, The State of Alternative Accommodations, found that “alternative accommodations are no longer in their infancy or start-up stages.” In a Skift survey of U.S. travelers, a majority of frequent travelers between the ages of 25 and 44 described themselves as loyal to the alternative accommodations scene –– clearly, Airbnb is no longer a trend, but an established accommodations provider.
The travel platform’s popularity among the traveling public is very much a reflection of the rise of the experiential travel trend that we’ve seen in recent years. Today’s travelers want to immerse themselves in local culture and claim an experience that’s entirely unique to them and that particular trip. A standardized travel experience that conforms to travelers’ preconceived expectations is no longer the priority for most travelers –– they want their trips to resonate on a deeper emotional level.
The desire to explore different places and interact with the world in new ways has become a widespread movement, fueled by common millennial and Generation Z values. Experiences continue to define a main point of criteria for millenials when assessing travel choices. The Deloitte study, “Winning the Race for Guest Loyalty,” found that millennials highly value exclusive experiences more than other groups, with 66 percent of polled millennials indicating that unique experiences matter, compared with just 50 percent of travelers in all other age groups.
Nevertheless, older travelers seem to have caught the experience bug from these younger generations. Speaking to Skift about Upshot’s study about traveler mindsets, the marketing agency’s planning director, Brian Asner, explained that the trend is less of a generational preference and more of a mindset around experiential travel, cultural immersion, escaping the everyday, and enabling spontaneity. “Some of the changes in broader priorities are being attributed to the younger generations,” he said. “But those crucial traits for millennials have trickled out to every other generation too. The demand for authenticy and experiences has become universal.”
Travelers surveyed in Skift’s U.S. Experiential Travel Trends report seemed to agree. Of the 2,341 survey respondents, 53 percent “don’t want to feel like a tourist while on vacation,” with 52 percent indicating that they “like vacationing with locals in their neighborhoods.” An even greater majority of those polled –– 65 percent –– said they prioritize returning from a trip having experienced something new, while 63 percent seek out travel experiences that “will give them a new perspective on the world.” Especially noteworthy is the fact that 84 percent of respondents agreed that there is value in goods and services that enable them to learn something new.
This indicates that travelers seeking distinct experiences are likely more willing to invest in the accommodations they’re staying in throughout their trip, given that they can offer something new. From vacation rental platforms, to hotel brands, to independently owned boutique properties, to individuals who share their homes, the hospitality industry has begun to reflect this trend –– providing guest experiences that go beyond a comfortable mattress and plump pillows is now pervasive across the hotel business.
Beyond Experiences, Choice is Key
Yet, it isn’t just recommendations for area sightseeing and dining that the modern traveler is seeking. They’re just as exacting about finding accommodations that suit their needs and interests.
The Little Albion in Sydney is one example of a property that’s rising to the occasion. This 35-room guesthouse, which also offers guests the opportunity to relax, share, and socialize in their bar, lounge, and on their rooftop, marries the concepts of hotel and home by offering the entire hotel as a single listing on Airbnb, in addition to individual units.
The Society Hotel in Portland, Oregon attracts international guests specifically through Airbnb, who are seeking minimal design and a unique perspective of the city. “More than experiences, people are seeking authentic human connection and history,” said owner Jessie Burke. “In our case, the hotel was once a safe haven for sailors, a gypsy family, and later owned by a Japanese family who ran The California Hotel. Our guests are willing to forgive a smaller room size and typical hotel amenities knowing there is a lot of history in the walls.”
With the recent addition of new categories such as “bed-and-breakfast” and “boutique hotel” to the accommodations platform, rooms at the Little Albion and The Society Hotel are now among the tens of thousands of boutique hotel rooms found on the site, in addition to bed-and-breakfasts. These two new Airbnb classifications, along with “unique properties,” which covers tree houses, yurts, and the like, came in response to the fact that travelers want varied experiences in addition to broad choice. While a private room in someone’s home may fit the bill for a quick, solo trip, a couple’s getaway might require the intimacy of a boutique or bed-and-breakfast experience.
The desire for authentic, enriching experiences, paired with the need for different types of accommodation to suit unique and individual trips, calls for property managers to look at their businesses from new angles.
To help property managers, bed-and-breakfast owners, and boutique hoteliers better meet guest needs, Airbnb has developed new professional tools for hosts. These tools help professional hosts manage listings at scale, while reaching an audience that is interested in a variety of hospitality options, including traditional vacation rentals and boutique hotels. To learn more, visit https://www.airbnb.com/professional.
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