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Viewpoint: How can hoteliers win the Airbnb battle?

03 June 2016

Berlin announced this month that the number of properties available via Airbnb has fallen. It's the result of legislation designed to protect living space - but there's no doubt that it's also a welcome outcome for local hoteliers.

Unease has grown internationally in the industry about the potential threat from 'sharing economy' renters, and there has certainly been an impact. For instance, in New York City during the week of Pope Francis's visit, Airbnb listings surged to almost 20,000, according to analysts. Hoteliers may not be worried about the competition, but it is making a difference - one chief executive of a US hotel chain has said that Airbnb is reducing his ability to price at premium rates during events.

Others point out Airbnb is offering something that hotels, particularly large chains, are not: a highly personal service. We're living in a world where consumers are rejecting anything they consider 'large and faceless', and are moving away from enormous supermarkets to smaller, more local retail stores.

The recent report: The Power of Personalisation: Hotels' Roadmap to 2020 by professional services network Grant Thornton, says that by meeting guests' individual needs, hotels can win greater loyalty.

"From online check-in to the app that allows online room service ordering, personalisation helps hotels stand out from the crowd," the report said. "Personalise or perish should be the mantra at the heart of hotel companies' efforts to build their brands and lay platforms for long term-success."

Good advice. The same report says nine out of 10 hoteliers believe their guests will expect their stay to be personalised by 2020 - and 74% get annoyed by website ads and promotions that do not appeal to them.

Yet getting personal in the right way is tricky. After all, hotels need to maintain a consistency of service across their estate, particularly if they are major flags. It may be easy to provide the personal touch in a boutique hotel, but can a multinational really get to know every single customer?

The answer lies in the adoption of hotel management technology that can help a hotel cater for a guest's needs while maintaining all-important consistency of service. It's no longer enough to have a great receptionist who recognises key guests and knows their preferences - what about when that person is off? Today's hotel technology captures vital information about each guest - not just contact details, but preferences such as a need for a ground-floor room or vegan meals. By putting that information literally at the fingertips of front desk and restaurant staff, every member of staff instantly becomes that excellent receptionist, who can welcome guests personally.

It's not a complete riposte to the Airnbnb threat, of course - there will always be those who choose that route to accommodation. But hoteliers who can combine consistency with personalised service will certainly beef

up their armoury in the battle against the new entrants.

Airbnb properties in London rise to more than 25,000 >>

Berlin bans properties being rented on Airbnb >>

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Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

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