We recently spoke of the challenges and goals that were discussed at this last Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association Marketplace and one of them was the need for regional hospitality businesses to start looking at Airbnb as a distribution channel.
This isn’t a new concept – if you google ‘Airbnb as a distribution channel for hotels’ you’ll see that this idea has been floating around since 2015. If you’re a hotelier this notion may make you recoil. Hasn’t there always been an us vs. them mentality? Certainly, but that has got to end! It’s not even worth rehashing old pros and cons arguments. Simply put: we need to embrace new partnerships in order to move the Caribbean region forward.
Sanovnik Destang, President of the Saint Lucia Hotel & Tourism Association and Executive Director of Bay Gardens Resorts says, “in St. Lucia we have an interesting phenomena with Airbnb now being the largest hotel ‘chain’ on island.”
Airbnb is here to stay.
Much like Amazon, the biggest influence that Airbnb will have on the hospitality industry is changing the way that people shop for rooms online. Amazon started with books, but now you can find practically anything there. Airbnb started with spare rooms, and it won’t be long until you can find anything hospitality & travel related on there.
To further the above point, Airbnb not only has an offering of hotels rooms (those savvy independent & boutique resorts / villas that jumped right in) in addition to their original spare rooms, but Airbnb has recently started to offer experiences. It fits with their ethos of authenticity and positions them to move towards becoming an all-in-one vacation-planning platform.
Hotels, tour companies, restaurants, and destinations should be looking at ways to become an experience host and in the case of Caribbean hotels, use Airbnb to distribute their rooms. Understandably, there is a hesitation with larger and chain resorts in listing their rooms on Airbnb (aside from possible rate parity issues), stemming from the guest expectation in using Airbnb that the listings there are local home-shares, however, in seeing the company positioning themselves as a travel planner and not just a lodging booking engine, it would behoove all resorts to start listing some of their product with Airbnb. At the very least it increases consumer awareness of your establishment.
Taking it a step further, hotels should be looking at ways to curate Airbnb experiences. I encourage you all to download the Airbnb app and check these experiences out. There are guidelines of course, but the current offerings, while presently geographically limited, are beautifully crafted, authentic, and intriguing. It’s time to start thinking of ways for your business to host experiences with the expert human capital you already have. Cooking lessons with your chef, rum tasting with a rum connoisseur, sailing lessons with your water sports team, seaside yoga followed by a local fruit tasting…
I could keep going but you catch the drift.
Interestingly, Airbnb has removed the previously required ‘location’ input for searching, now allowing users to search experiences anywhere, thus planning their travel around the adventure that appeals to them as opposed to trying to find unique things to do after choosing a location. This means, it’s ever more important to offer authentic, immersive, transformative activities and experiences for people.
Much like when Uber first started, there were initial concerns with airbnb of the ‘quality’ of experience hosts. In a recent article by Mercury News it was mentioned that, “with the peer-to-peer model in particular, it’s difficult to find enough hosts who have interesting experiences to offer, he (TJ Sassani) said. And it raises liability questions — if travelers book a kayak adventure with their Airbnb host, how do they know the boat is safe and their guide is trained?”
The above couldn’t be a more perfect reason for hotels and hospitality professionals that have been operating in the Caribbean region for decades to step in. Quality standards are what are industry trades in. Partnering with Airbnb on experiences would be a win-win for both.
*Please note that this is not sponsored by Airbnb… I am not famous enough yet for them to pay me any mind. All opinions are my own.5