Home Stay or Hotel Room? Airbnb's Impact on Hotel Design

By David Ashen Principal and Founder, dash design | August 19, 2018

One of my clients who owns about 80 hotels prefers to stay in an Airbnb when he's in New York City.

With leanings like that, it's no wonder that big hotel chains are starting to sweat. What is it about Airbnbs-those randomly available, short-term rented rooms, cottages, apartments or homes-that has even a successful hotelier, never mind the average business or luxury traveler, forgoing overnights in a full-service hotel for a paid room in a stranger's home or a space in a multi-unit residence absent of an onsite owner?

Blame the shift in many of today's business and recreation travelers' preferences-especially those of the influential millennial crowd-for intimate lodgings that reflect and even embrace the local vibe, which is just what so many Airbnb properties do. No longer satisfied with standard, neutral overnight rooms, a reported 2 million people around the world stay in an Airbnb-hosted rental on a given night. Of Airbnb's overnighters, 88 percent consist of groups of two to four people, while 7 percent are of solo guests. Moreover, Airbnb guests stayed longer in their rental than the average hotel guest did in his room/suite, with roughly half of Airbnb room-nights coming from trips of seven days or longer. 

Granted, that falls considerably short of the hotel industry's demand, which in October 2017 surpassed the 5.8 million U.S. hotel rooms already in service or under construction according to Statistica: The Statistics Portal. Then again, year-over revenue generated by Airbnb hosts almost doubled in 2016, making the interest in them not just a noticeable trend, but also one that has hoteliers on alert. Smart ones aren't just concerned. They're also taking steps to compete with the properties through small and sweeping changes to their brands' design and amenities. 

For one, the era of grand public spaces is gone. As modern hotel designs move their attention from expansive, impersonal spaces to the micro-scale, today's focus on meeting areas centers on more informal spaces that heighten familiarity, closeness and conversation. While there are some hotels that continue to offer large conference facilities for their clientele that need them, for the most part, as guests turn away from large, culturally devoid rooms dressed in neutral furnishings, the convention of the sterile hotel meeting room is over.

Consider the two Arlo Hotels in New York City, which have moved away from traditional meeting rooms to less typical environments. There, the public spaces are much more residential and private club-like than what's been available, conventionally. For instance, there are second-level public spaces that are divided into living room- and library-like areas which are rented as meeting spaces to corporate clients. There are no meeting rooms in the traditional ways we have come to know them; that is, big boxes devoid of personality, culture and warmth. Instead, there are a number of furnished spaces to choose from where one can have a private or not-so-private meeting.

Lounge at Ground Level
Lounge & Bar at Ground Level
The Secret Garden at Ground Level
/ SLIDES
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Coming up in March 2019...

Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.