Airbnb says it may have to tweak its commercial model for hotels but it is determined to offer an alternative distribution channel to the big global OTAs.
Robin Clifford, northern Europe manager for homes at the leading home sharing site, told the Triptease Direct Booking Summit, that Airbnb was serious about helping hotels.
He said it feels like hotels have become hooked on the leading OTAs like booking.com and Expedia. “It’s almost like you have taken a drug but you can’t bet off it,” he said.
Clifford said Airbnb has always been as much about looking after the keyholder, or host, as it is the customer and the site is also all about the experience rather than the price.
He claimed Airbnb has become the most valued partner for vacation rental suppliers in the UK because “we have not beat people up on price”.
“The Airbnb guest wants unique offerings, local experiences and quality hosting. That’s something all of you have got,” he said.
Airbnb has announced it is formally moving into the hotel sector and is starting to categorise its listings in ‘collections’ to reflect the different styles of property available on its site.
Clifford conceded Airbnb’s commercial model of charging 3% commission to the host and a variable fee to the customer may not work for the independent hotel sector.
A flat fee is being tested, but Clifford said Airbnb was keen to listen to the sector about what it wants to help the site work out how it can help.
“We share the same values,” he said. “We have always supported independent entrepreneurial companies who do not want to go with the crowd.
“If you are going to be independent, I’m pretty sure we are going to be a platform that will help you showcase that independence and deliver business at a price that you want.
“What’s missing in hotels distribution is actually the hospitality because everyone is so focused on competing on price. It’s important you get the chance to showcase your excellent hosting capability.
Boutique hotels will appear as a new category on Airbnb and business will be given a profile page on which they can promote themselves and what makes them unique.
Clifford said Airbnb is now an established brand in its own right that people seek out when they are looking for inspiration and so the business it will drive will be incremental.
“It’s important for us to go in different directions to disrupt what we do not like about what the OTAs have done to the hotel sector,” he said.