Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

May 20 2013

The New Generation of Hotel Guests

By David McMillin, Staff Writer

While big meetings will continue to fill room blocks at major hotel brands around the globe, don’t expect attendees to automatically return to those established brands when they’re traveling for leisure.

In research conducted by New York-based marketing communications firm, JWT, 56 percent of American and British indicated that they think it’s great that people can avoid traditional businesses through services known as peer-to-peer (P2P) platforms, which allow consumers to bypass big businesses in favor of buying or sharing services with fellow consumers.

One of the most successful examples of a P2P company in recent years is ZipCar, which gives many residents in cities the ability to gain immediate access to cars for affordable rentals rather than dealing with the costs of buying vehicles. However, the JWT research shows that these businesses may be catching on for reasons outside of cost, too. Fifty-five percent of respondents said that they would put their trust in an individual over a big corporation any day.

When it comes to housing, companies like Airbnb, Roomorama and HomeAway are working to capitalize on that trustworthiness by allowing travelers to book accommodations directly from property owners. They’re cashing in, too. Airbnb booked 5 million room nights in the first half of 2012.

What does it mean for hotels? According to venture capitalist Chris Fralic, this success means that “the way we thought of and built and booked and ran hotels has to change.”

The Power of Peer-to-Peer Properties

These P2P properties often come at much more affordable price points than hotels, but there’s another key piece of these companies that’s especially appealing to younger travelers: the ability to truly experience a destination. For example, rather than staying at a property in Midtown Manhattan with a traditional guest room, travelers can enjoy a weekend in a loft apartment with a rooftop in the East Village. Instead of choosing a downtown four-star hotel in Chicago, guests can look for a duplex condo in Lincoln Park.

“Airbnb and similar services allow for their own native experiences, where you’re in the fabric of the city in a way that you’re not when you’re in a hotel,” Lisa Gansky, author, The Mesh: Why the Future of Business Is Sharing, says. “It’s kind of like the difference between taking a plane and taking a train. The train brings you right into the heart of the city, and the plane puts you into the ugliest part of the city just because they had to put an airport there.”

SEE ALSO: 5 Key Challenges Facing Hoteliers

Hotels Hope to Keep Up

While Gansky highlights that P2P companies give travelers opportunities to immerse themselves in destinations, some hoteliers are working to give guests those same opportunities. Last year, Hilton Worldwide announced its “Authentically Local” packages at some of its properties in the Caribbean and Latin America that offer everything from Colombian rum tastings to tango dancing lessons in Brazil.

SEE ALSO: American Hotel Giant Relocates to the Middle East

“Hotels are working to engage an evolving audience of guests that are speaking up and saying, ‘we don’t want to stay in the rooms that our parents did,’” Mary Reynolds Kane, senior director, experience marketing, PCMA, says. “They’re looking to upload photos to Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest to show off their one-of-a-kind experiences to their friends.”

What do you think P2P properties mean for hotel chains? Comment below.

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