Hoteliers shouldn't fear the sharing economy, says Airbnb boss
The sharing economy has led to the expansion of the travel market and will not dramatically affect hotels, according to Airbnb head of global hospitality and strategy Chip Conley.
The former hotelier, who founded the 52 strong Joie de Vivre hotel group, told delegates at the International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) in Berlin that sites such as Airbnb had democratised hospitality.
He said that Airbnb tended to appeal to people who might otherwise have not made the trip, or stayed with friends, and added: "As we go mainstream - and we had 20 million guests last year and are growing by more than a million guests a month so we're definitely mainstream - we've got more upscale. But the truth is that we're helping expand the pie."
In the main, global hotel companies weren't aggressive towards Airbnb's arrival, Conley said, a message backed up by the speakers on the IHIF CEO's panel.
Marriott International chief executive Arne Sorenson said the site was yet to make a dramatic impact. "It's not so significant that it has taken demand out of the market," he said. "In the US we posted record occupancy a few years ago and we continue to grow year on year. So even as Airbnb has grown substantially we are posting these record numbers."
Choice Hotels' chief executive Stephen Joyce added that Airbnb is going to have to go through a transformation. "It will have to pay tax, offer greater safety and do many things that are tougher than its model. But in the longer term, that model is here to stay."
Addressing the issue of regulation, Conley said that laws were yet to keep up with technology. "Let's be clear, most laws in the world were written pre-internet," he said. "So most of the laws we're dealing with have never imagined that there'd be a technology that would create trust such that hosts would open their homes to guests.
"What we're likely to see over the next couple of years will be cities implementing sensible regulations. We want to help create a level playing field but some regulations are more appropriate for a 400 room hotel than they are for a person who rents out their spare room four weeks a year."
Though at the moment the site appealed mainly to millennials, Conley said he expected more guest to be business travellers in future.
"Business travel is an area where we will grow, but I can't see we'll going after the core business guest," he explained. "The two day road runner isn't our core customer. Our average length of stay is more than double the average length of stay for a hotel.
"One of the shocking things is that our pace of growth hasn't slowed. As big as we've got, we continue to grow bigger. Part of the reason is that there are tens of millions of empty bedrooms and mattresses across the world."