Who Disrupted Who in the Accommodations Industry?
Posted on May 4, 2018
Ah, I remember it well. The day the hotel industry stopped laughing at Airbnb. It was the day Airbnb started targeting corporate travel and not just leisure. Oh, there was talk. There was fear. There was pushback. There was disruption. How dare they encroach on hotel turf.
“Room for Rent” as old as the hill.
Renting a room in someone’s house isn’t new. In fact, it's been around since the dawn of man. There was the odd ‘tavern’ attached to a watering hole saloon and most not suitable for women and children. The ‘norm’ was homeowners hanging a sign in their front window - 'Room for Rent' for travelers passing through. Often they fed you breakfast where the term 'B&B' was first coined.
In the old days, instead of clicking on a website, you knocked on doors. For many families, this was a large part of their side hustle income and for others it was their livelihood.
And then hotels made their debut – the original disruptors to the little Ma & Pa’s lodging industry. In the 1700's 'Inns' were first introduced in Europe and in 1768 one of the first true ‘hotels’ opened its doors to the rich and famous. It took more than a century and half later into the 1900’s before hotels began to proliferate and where roadside motels carved out a new niche in 1920's serving truckers and the like.
Meanwhile by mid the 1900’s the hotel industry became big business, booming and multiplying like rabbits.
By mid-century Holiday Inn, Hilton, Marriott and more started cropping up all over North America, while B&B’s remained mainly in quaint small towns.
It's almost hard to fathom that branded hotels have really only been around less than a hundred years and so widely accessible to any type of traveler from budget to luxury practically anywhere in the world. It’s been a pretty sweet run for hoteliers. That is until a couple of guys hard-up for cash rented out an air mattress. You might say, the founders of Airbnb merely wrapped a giant virtual net around any home owner with a room to rent all over the world and voila…B&B’s are back in the game bigger and better than ever before.
It's fair to say Airbnb revived what hotels had disrupted in the first place.
Anyone in the hotel biz could have done it but it took a few guys in San Fran to beat them to it. And well, what started out as nothing to be concerned about, turned out to be major players with some real heavyweight innovative kind of muscle. Airbnb…a $31Billion company that meekly began in 2007 has officially elbowed in on the top five giant hotel companies share. Everything from a spot on someone's sofa to a castle if you want it. Airbnb's offering and focus on the luxury segment is pretty damn impressive. Every day more than 2 million people are checking into someone’s home thanks to Airbnb.
Turns out B&B’s came first by a few thousand years.
What’s changed? Airbnb created an entirely new eco-system and became a force of nature with a consortium of small owners under one great big umbrella. I remember my first experience with Airbnb well. It was to Italia in September on the southern end of the Alps at Lago d'Iseo. I rented a fully appointed two bedroom apartment for my sister and I halfway up a small mountain that you could only drive up in first gear. The private gates opened and I drove my little rented Citreon onto a tiled driveway nicer that my own kitchen floors. Our host Fiorenzo was there waiting for us. Our flat, fresh and bright and modern was outfitted with espresso, enough brioche to snack on for months, milk, juice and a bottle of champagne. And then he opened the french doors and there it was - our glorious view for the next two weeks - exactly as it was pictured on the Airbnb site and where we had pastry and coffee every morning and sipped wine at night. Regular fresh towel delivery, wifi, use of bicycles, washing machines, you name it. Anything I wanted I just had to text Fiorenzo via an Airbnb number. When Fiorenzo brought us more espresso I said "Signore, we don't expect you to replenish our coffee for the next two weeks. He said, "Yes, you must expect." All for $70 Euros a night. So maybe not all rentals are like this alpine apartment in the sky and not all hosts are like Fiorenzo. Then again, not all hotels are like Ritz. And while I gave Fiorenzo five stars and a thumbs up review, he too reviewed me as a guest. Fair's fair. Airbnb opens up a whole new plethora of interesting and amazing experiences and 'Room for Rent' is everyone's game.