If you were to ask any hospitality professional what the biggest threat to the industry is, they would tell you, it’s Airbnb. Across the world, cities are either embracing Airbnb with open arms or preparing for war against the growing accommodation middle-man website.
On the one hand, Airbnb provides alternative accommodation for guests who want to immerse themselves in the local culture, prepare their own meals and get cheaper rates. Hence, it is a winning situation for the guest and the local landlord.
On the other hand, with fewer guests coming to traditional hotels, layoffs of local people who depend on the tourism industry for income is a certainty. The profitability of the hotels decreases. The local government sees a loss of tax revenues.
There is no doubt Airbnb enjoys an un-level playing field. Airbnb hosts commonly avoid the steep business taxes, prohibitive licencing requirements and frequent inspections that local hotels are subject to. Hotels are shouting back, demanding that these vacation rentals be treated the same as hotels and that they too should have to go through strict requirements to operate.
In fact, hotels are fighting back, hard. The newest trend in hotels is the apartment hotel. This model is a fully serviced hotel, but with the space and look of a regular city apartment. These hotel rooms come with a full kitchen, living room and bedrooms for their guests to enjoy. Some even have laundry facilities and balconies to truly have their guests live in the life of luxury during their stay.
These apartment hotels also provide cleaning services either every other day or daily like a regular hotel. They provide a virtual concierge for planning events and helping their guests with their stay. Some even provide laundry and dry-cleaning for an extra fee.
Like an ordinary apartment rental, guests have the option to make this apartment their temporary home. With virtual check-in and check-out and parking space, they too can enjoy their new apartment accommodation in style. Zoku in Amsterdam even gives you the option to switch out the artwork to fit your style. They also provide business supplies with the option to rent the apartment as your new office space.
Apartment hotels can be customized for guest functions whether it is for a small get-together, a little concert, a temporary business office or for, of course, a comfortable stay.
Big names like Accor, Marriot and Oakwood are taking on the new trend by implementing their own apartment hotels in the downtown cores of major metropolitans. Accor, for example, has apartment hotels in the heart of Paris, Brussels and even Berlin with more to come.
What does this mean for the Airbnb hosts that currently rule the short-term apartment rental domain? It depends on how you look at it. On the one hand, Airbnb hosts are growing every day as local people see it as a way to earn extra revenue while they are away or a way to fill extra properties. On the other hand, governments are cracking down on these, sometimes illegal, rentals. Rental contracts are now being written with a no-sublet clause to avoid apartments being used on these sites. In the media, there seems to be a new Airbnb horror story every week with a sometimes five or six figure repair bill waiting for the unsuspecting host who has had their home trashed. With many insurance companies refusing to cover this damage without a business licence, and with new rental regulations and apartment hotels popping up in cities across the world, Airbnb may final have meet its match.
Vacation rental will never go away, but what these regulations may do is supress the rapid growth of this middle-man internet giant. Only time will tell if these apartment hotels are what is going to slow the epidemic of unlicensed vacation rentals or if it will be the hosts themselves, stopped in their tracks with government regulations and hefty fines.