Why this hotelier booked with Airbnb
 
Why this hotelier booked with Airbnb
28 OCTOBER 2015 6:50 AM
I’ve booked with hotels all my life. During a recent trip to Germany, however, my wife and I booked with Airbnb. I wasn’t disappointed. 
While planning a vacation with my wife to a small town in Germany (near Karlsruhe) to visit our niece who is living there for a few months playing professional softball, I found myself searching online for a place to stay just as any other guest might. With my career as a hotel trainer providing so many connections, and with my wife being a 25-year employee of a major hotel brand, we usually stay at a hotel either where we know someone or at least where she can get an employee rate. So for me this was a rare firsthand experience of what it is like for most consumers randomly searching for accommodations. 
 
In the end, we chose Airbnb.  I have to say it was a most interesting opportunity to gain insight into its popularity and explosive growth. 
 
As part of the sharing economy, Airbnb is often called a disrupter of the traditional room accommodations model. Based on my experience, perhaps the hotel industry could benefit from this disruption by improving its own service experiences. 
 
First, I visited the websites of a few of the hotels I had found by doing a search on an online travel agency website. I then clicked over to TripAdvisor to check out some reviews. Not being satisfied with what I was finding, I decided to visit Airbnb. Right away I began to realize why this channel has become so popular. 
 
Why I booked with Airbnb
First, it was much more informative than most hotel websites. I found a terrific mapping feature, easy access to verifiable guest reviews and, best of all, most of the properties had lots of real-world pictures—not just stylized professional shots. 
 
Because we planned to stay for a week and also wanted to have our niece over to visit, I was especially particular about my selection of lodging for this trip. I decided to email some questions to a few of the hoteliers and also to the owner/host of the Airbnb unit. This was when I first began to notice what I liked most about the experience: the authentic, genuine hospitality delivered personally by the Airbnb host. 
 
I sent all of my emails at the same time. There were four messages to traditional hoteliers and one to my Airbnb host, explaining our plans to visit for the local team’s softball playoffs. I also  included a few questions about transportation, shopping and dining. Out of the four hotelier inquiries: 
  1. One never responded to my questions; 
  2. another simply quoted the rates and completely ignored my other questions; 
  3. the third replied with brief, one-line answers; and
  4. the fourth replied with pleasantries and more detailed answers—but it took four days.
Meantime, my Airbnb inquiry was answered within hours by host Nicole. Thanks to the platform’s easy-to-use app, I received the response there as well as via text. Nicole introduced herself and expressed enthusiasm in hosting what she noted was to be our first vacation to Germany. She provided thorough details about the transportation options to and from our niece’s apartment and the softball fields and also several recommendations for nearby shopping, bank and dining. She volunteered additional details about how the accommodation would be perfect for us as there was a small yard in the front of the home where we could enjoy what was likely to be nice, early fall weather. 
 
In the ensuing weeks before our arrival, we exchanged a few more messages. Nicole continued to extend personalized hospitality to us, always responding promptly. 
 
That first impression of the Airbnb experience and Nicole was good, but it was the arrival experience that left the biggest impression. 
 
On the morning of our arrival, I received a text from Nicole asking how our flight had been and reconfirming our arrival time. When we got to the apartment, she was there to greet us personally, taking time to walk us through the accommodation and to answer questions we had about the local area. She messaged us during the stay to make sure everything was going well. 
 
We had to depart in the early morning at the end of our stay, so Nicole sent her regrets at not being able to say goodbye in person and wished us a fond farewell.
 
Welcome home
When I first started working as a bellman in this industry, one of my first mentors told me that the key to being successful in the hospitality industry was welcoming guests to the hotel in the same way as you would welcome them into your own home. 
 
Our industry has grown and expanded over the years. More hotels are owned by investment funds and not people, and more hotels are managed by companies that answer first to Wall Street before guests. Along the way, that important message of welcome that I learned years ago often gets lost.
 
As an Airbnb guest, I was treated like a guest in someone’s home because I was a guest in Nicole’s home. Even though we were renting the apartment that was attached with a separate entrance, at every step of the service cycle we were treated with warmth and generosity that is too often lacking in today’s corporate hotel environment. Yes, Airbnb lived up to its Silicon Valley origins with a high-tech booking process, but the platform offered a very high-touch guest experience as well. 
 
Doug Kennedy is President of the Kennedy Training Network, Inc. a leading provider of customized training programs and telephone mystery shopping services for the lodging and hospitality industry. Doug continues to be a fixture on the industry’s conference circuit for hotel companies, brands and associations, as he been for over two decades. Since 1996, Doug’s monthly hotel industry training articles have been published worldwide, making him one of the most widely read hotel industry training writers. Visit KTN at www.kennedytrainingnetwork.com or email him directly.
 
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10 Comments

  • Derek Wood - Guest Check October 28, 2015 5:40 AM

    Excellent, and clearly something today's hoteliers MUST learn from instead of complaining about what AirBnB is doing to their business. I hope you shared this article with Nicole!!

  • Joel Ross October 28, 2015 6:04 AM

    this is a perfect example of why I suggested AH&LA needs to stop fighting with Airbnb and try to embrace them as a member of the industry. They do a great job from what I hear over and over- much better than most of the htoel industry just as the article points out. Unless AH&LA and the indiustry get on board with reality Airbnb and its competitiors will do real disruption to the hotel industry over time and stupid regs like I see being promulgated in CA will just get consumers angry and it will reflect badly on the hotel industry on social media. Wake up! the world has changed and hotels can't regulate it away.

  • James Anthony October 28, 2015 9:31 AM

    Awesome,I had received all articles with every spectures. Very aprecaated with all guest!

  • rachelbeck October 28, 2015 9:51 AM

    A very insightful post. Recommended reading for any hotelier or innkeeper!

  • Margurite November 2, 2015 9:12 AM

    Competition does the industry good! Great read!

  • Chris Farrar November 3, 2015 6:01 AM

    There's one thing about Airbnb that I think would turn hoteliers' heads, and I've never seen it discussed in industry articles or forums. Just as the guest rates the host and the accommodation, the host reviews and rates the guest. And just as a guest can consult other guests' reviews when choosing a place, the host can consult other hosts' reviews of the guest before accepting the booking. Over time this develops a culture of loyalty and mutual respect that simply doesn't exist (and perhaps cannot exist) in the hotel / guest relationship.

  • Beenu Sabharwal November 11, 2015 10:24 PM

    Hi Doug, I'm in complete agreement with you on this piece. The Airbnb hosts are like the kind and warm relatives who you didnt even know you had. And its really just the genuine concern and care of the hosts that really take you back to them. I recently visited a slightly lesser know regions of Sri Lanka by the name Trincomalee, lesser know because it was deeply affected by 30 years of war. I found the perfect place to stay, totally safe for single women travelers and each of the member of the staff were the most kindest and their service completely met expectation. All this from someone who hasn't had any experience working in a hotel or hotel like environment whatsoever. Airbnb really brings these people to us in the most efficient and effective manner. I'm in love with them and would never think of ever booking a hotel ever for my future travels :)

  • Carole November 19, 2015 2:39 AM

    Is there a reason you booked specifically with Airbnb and not through VRBO or HomeAway or Holidaylettings.co.uk, All are sites that have been around significantly longer than Airbnb?

  • DebiH November 19, 2015 7:12 AM

    My husband and I just returned from France after the Paris attacks. Our Airbnb hosts not only shared their home with us, but took us out to their country home for a home-cooked meal, a tour of the countryside and dinner in one of their favorite restaurants, owned by a friend. We left as friends, and felt like beloved family members. There are not enough words to express our gratitude and recognition of a deep and mutual connection.

  • Debbie Luna November 20, 2015 2:11 AM

    My personal experiences with Airbnb have been very similar. My husband and I have traveled both in the US and Internationally and have never had a negative experience. That being said, we always select what is known as a "Super Host" so we know that the space as well as the host is vetted. We've been to DC, Delaware, Italy, parts of Mexico and have always had success. I also think the point Chris makes is very important. The host ALSO has the ability to rate the guest. As a host this allows you to determine to whom you would like to rent your "home." I love this feature. I have us VRBO in the past and although the experience was overall positive, it was not nearly as welcoming as all of my Airbnb experiences. Something interesting, in Italy a number of our hosts provided us with a local cell phone with their phone number programmed in just in case we ran into any "issues" or needed questions answered. I thought that was going one step above for sure.

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