I just read an article on Skift  mentioning different hotel and distribution channel’s CEO’s views on Airbnb. In summary, hoteliers tend to wish that Airbnb is playing even with them in terms of regulations and taxes, they do not consider that Airbnb has a very important impact on their business, long stay accommodation providers tend to look at it as a new alternative provider, some love it as they believe it has done some good to the industry, all agree that it is an alternative accommodation, which is neither a hotel, nor a timeshare and which seems to have a role to play complimentary to current accommodation suppliers.

So all good! Airbnb has shifted from the enemy, the unfair player to an alternative accommodation provider who should please obey to some rules.

One point, which so far has not been raised, or maybe it is in the minds and strategic boards of the major players; what will happen the day Airbnb accommodation providers will, worldwide, play fair, adopt all state regulations, pay all taxes? Will we forget them? Will they just be considered as normal local competition? Isn’t there more to Airbnb than just providing accommodation? Is there a shift in the society which may impact me – normal hotel/long-stay/timeshare/whatever accommodation provider – in a long lasting manner?

I mean we are talking about a 2.3 million inventory, between 500’000 and 1 million night-stays every day with peaks up to 1.3 million, in 190 countries. This is not small. The largest hotel consolidation reaches 1.1 million hotel rooms. There is no hospitality business which is attracting large investors like the current sharing economy and on-line portals do, Airbnb being one of them.

I believe that the hypothesis that the traditional hospitality industry is a strong and solid actor who will continuously be considered as the accommodation reference is wrong. Traditional hospitality includes all current hospitality concepts, not only the Swiss Palace! When the organizing committee of the Rio Olympic Games decided to sign an exclusivity agreement with Airbnb to become the official Games spectator supplier, this was for me a turning point. Games spectators use a platform to get sports event tickets, which links to a preferred platform to help you chose your accommodation, so simple! And by-passing any official hospitality distribution channel, brand, direct booking or even just any visibility given to the traditional offering.

Questions which I would love to hear: “What can we learn from Airbnb?

Could we imagine developing business models which allow us to tap into this large new customer base and maybe rejuvenate our entire business model? What is the culture of Airbnb, will it allow them to continue gaining value? Does our strategy still make sense?”

One of the beauties of Airbnb is its agility, its capacity to learn whilst growing and applying drastic corrections along the way without losing any credibility or attractivity. Look at the latest issues around race discrimination; it did not take long before a public statement came out showing how shocked and concerned the CEO was and what he would do to overcome this situation. But more importantly repeating the strong value Airbnb stands for “Our mission is to create a world where people feel like they belong”. When Chesky says it, it is music to Airbnb hosts and customers, because it sounds authentic and not just an empty shell sentence.

Currently it seems that even bigger players like Google, Amazon, Apple are not entering into the accommodation industry, since they still have interest to support their clients who are also suppliers or main actors in the hospitality field; booking engines, connectivity, technological solutions. BUT for how long? Hospitality assets are often used as shop-windows for their owners, what would stop these big players to use hospitality with the same purpose for all their other businesses? Hotels as a huge marketing tool, offering as well the unique capacity to talk to the masses, provide a fun, connected, high tech. and interactive experience, everything traditional hospitality is craving to keep up-to-date with.

Agility, simplicity, authenticity, renewal and a continuous anticipation & adjustment to trends that can impair the earning power of my core business may be the key for the hospitality industry to remain a strong industry partner who will lead the way rather than being potentially replaced by more inspiring and en vogue business models.

About the Author

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André Mack Director at Lausanne Hospitality Consulting SA

André has an extensive career in the in-flight catering industry and specialized in the areas of customer service and business process re-engineering.

He is both Director, Lausanne Hospitality Consulting, and faculty member, Ecole hoteliere de Lausanne, lecturing on project management and consulting. André facilitated seminars on product development, strategic resilience, branding and customer service strategies within the hospitality industry. The consulting mandates in operational and quality auditing of hospitality business units, re-engineering of management and operational processes, project management for hotels new builds, strategic business analysis, as well as the development of hospitality learning centers, have allowed him to touch base in New York, Sydney and many countries between these two destinations.

Andre is an alumnus of HSG (University of St. Gallen) and of Ecole hoteliere de Lausanne. He speaks French, German and English, mixing it up sometimes with the various Swiss German dialects.

Besides walking with his two children and his wife, Andre appreciates particularly good food, good wine and the unique atmosphere of a Swiss chalet with its chimney fire.