Locals Take Issue with Airbnb Creating an Opportunity for Hotels
With its new ‘experiences’ function, Airbnb claims to be connecting guests with city residents as a way of giving experience-loving Millennials a taste of local culture. While the chance to spend a couple of hours cooking a pizza in Venice, or skateboarding through central park in New York City is appealing, lately the platform has been accused of creating divides between tourists and city locals, rather than bringing them together.
As the demand for holiday accommodation increases, housing prices are becoming unaffordable. As tourists flood in, many locals are driven out. People aren’t happy about it. Barcelona, for example, has seen a huge wave of anti-tourism protests as apartment prices soar. Graffiti has popped up around the city too, which mostly has the same theme: "Tourists: Go home." Other European cities like Rome, Venice, and Dubrovnik are up in arms as well, due to a sharp rise in tourism making their cities overcrowded.
Millennials are experience driven, however the idea of connecting tourists with local life shouldn’t push residents away from their homes. It’s here that hoteliers have an opportunity to bring tourists back into hotels, and help diffuse the situation between travelers and city residents. This article from Arrivedo discusses what hotels can do to draw vacationers back and restore the balance and good relationship between locals and tourists.
Tourists' Needs vs. Locals' Needs
Generations of the past may have been happy booking organized tours through a travel agency, but Millennials crave personalized experiences. As a result, they’re putting in the research to ensure they book a unique, experience-driven trip.
According to Expedia, consumers visit an average of 38 websites in the week before booking, more than doubling their time spent online. More than likely, they’re researching destinations based on activities nearby such as what the particular neighborhood has to offer, or what outdoor adventures they can engage in. Millennials want to live like locals; for many, this means staying in an Airbnb.
However in cities like Barcelona, those staying in short-term apartment rentals aren’t typically met with open arms. Barcelona has 16,000 holiday rentals and about 7000 of them are illegal. Many blame these rentals for the fact that rent in the city has risen by 23 percent in the last three years, and in some working-class areas, residents now spend 60 percent of their income on housing.
“Welcome tourists,” read one sign in the city. “The rent of holiday apartments in this neighborhood destroys the local socio-fabric and promotes speculation. Many local residents are forced to move out. Enjoy your stay.”
People who live in travel hot-spots want tourism to be something that benefits their community, not something that causes them to suffer. They want tourism to contribute to job creation, better infrastructure, increased spending within the local community, and direct GDP contribution. But even more, they want to be able to enjoy the cities they call home. They do not want to be driven out of the city just so experience-driven visitors can enjoy it instead.
How can hotels take action?
In recent months, Barcelona has cracked down on illegal apartment rentals. It boasts a 40 person team of inspectors who walk the streets to seek them out. They often use mobile apps to reveal if an apartment rental is illegal, or not.
In addition to the government’s efforts, hoteliers now have the opportunity to step in and appeal more to experience-driven guests and bring those guests who’d normally stay in Airbnbs back into hotels. But guests shouldn’t be using hotels just because there is a high amount of illegal Airbnbs, they should be using hotels because they are better.
We know travelers want to experience life as a local. So how can hotels meet their guests’ needs? Start thinking like local hosts. Instead of having a traditional concierge, hotels should consider offering a concierge that acts more like a ‘local friend’. Dressed in street clothes and sitting beside a sign in the hotel lobby, the new-wave concierge can give guests great recommendations for the city and should be just as approachable as an Airbnb host. Smaller hotels may also want their guest to use apps like Hello Scout, which enables travelers to text local experts to get access to insider tips for exploring the city.
Hotels can also appeal to guests by selling top features of the neighborhoods they’re located in. Take a look at what Virgin Hotels is doing with its platform Step Outside, for example. They ask travelers to choose between different interests to find the things to do near the hotel, based on their personality types, that will appeal to them.
Ultimately, providing local guides for neighborhood recommendations, or a concierge to give insider tips, will encourage tourists to spend their money at local-run establishments. With this in mind, hotels should also encourage guests to write reviews for these places, letting guests know that positive reviews will push the local economy forward.
Apart from providing experiences or a connection with locals, hotels could also make their accommodations seem more like apartments. This means offering more suites, more cooking facilities – even shared kitchens, if they so choose – local art on the walls, etc. It’s all to make hotels room feel less well, hotel-like, and more like home.
It’s a tricky balance. Tourists should be able to enjoy travel destinations. However in doing so, they need to be conscious of how they’re impacting the local community. Hotels are well positioned to take care of both residents and guests by offering tourists the local experiences they want, without staying in illegal holiday rentals.