Sharper strategies needed in face of Airbnb competition, hoteliers told

MATTA wants prompt assistance for agents forced to shoulder additional costs

Hotels have to relook their distribution and marketing strategies in order to better compete with Airbnb providers for market share, said speakers at a session addressing Airbnb’s impact on hotels, serviced residences and OTAs at the recent Hospitality Malaysia Conference in Kuala Lumpur.

Hanley Chew, CEO of Berjaya Hotels & Resorts, suggests for hotels to focus on right visitor segments. “While Airbnb providers are in direct competition with hotels for the leisure FIT segment, they are not in competition for group travel and the meetings segment.”

Industry players bring different sides to the topic of whether hotels should go head to head with Airbnb

He added that with “the sharing economy here to stay”, hotels may want to choose to strategically co-exist with the competition rather than simply regard them as a threat.

On the sidelines of the session, he told TTG Asia that Berjaya Hotels & Resorts views Airbnb as a partner and is considering ways of collaboration with the home sharing platform.

Said Chew: “When Airbnb operators have rented out the property they have, there is no more means for them to make money until the property or room is vacated. We are looking at the option of giving them a small number of rooms in our hotels which they can sell on the Airbnb platform.”

On the other hand, Yann Gouriou, COO and co-founder of online travel portal Traveliko, opined that hoteliers should rethink the way they promote their products to appeal to millennial travellers, whose expectations greatly differ from that of the earlier generations.

He said millennials are keen on experiential travel and living like a local, which is what Airbnb is selling. Guests could talk to the owners for advice on what to do and where to go. In comparison, hotels have adopted a cold approach, and have removed the human touch by focusing too much on technology.

He added: “Hotels have rerouted the customer from speaking to a human on the hotel side to talking to the portal. Hotels have gone backwards and they have to bring back the human touch, the romance.”

In 2017, Airbnb hosts in Kuala Lumpur shared their homes with more than 507,000 guests, which is a 135 per cent increase from the previous year. Airbnb is not regulated by Malaysian law and operators do not need a license to operate or pay taxes.

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