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
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Coming up in January 2019...

Mobile Technology: The Future is Now

Mobile Technology continues to advance at a relentless pace and the hotel industry continues to adapt. Hotel guests have shown a strong preference for mobile self-service - from checking-in/out at a hotel kiosk, to ordering room service, making dinner reservations, booking spa treatments, and managing laundry/dry cleaning services. And they also enjoy the convenience of paying for these services with smart phone mobile payments. In addition, some hotels have adopted a “concierge in your pocket” concept. Through a proprietary hotel app, guests can access useful information such as local entertainment venues, tourist attractions, event calendars, and medical facilities and services. In-room entertainment continues to be a key factor, as guests insist on the capacity to plug in their own mobile devices to customize their entertainment choices. Mobile technology also allows for greater marketing opportunities. For example, many hotels have adopted the use of “push notifications” - sending promotions, discounts and special event messages to guests based on their property location, purchase history, profiles, etc. Near field communication (NFC) technology is also being utilized to support applications such as opening room doors, earning loyalty points, renting a bike, accessing a rental car, and more. Finally, some hotels have adopted more futuristic technology. Robots are in use that have the ability to move between floors to deliver room service requests for all kinds of items - food, beverages, towels, toothbrushes, chargers and snacks. And infrared scanners are being used by housekeeping staff that can detect body heat within a room, alerting staff that the room is occupied and they should come back at a later time. The January Hotel Business Review will report on what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in this exciting mobile technology space.