I prefer hotels over Airbnb, especially when traveling for business — but this could change with one simple innovation.
I believe many mid to high-end business travelers (myself included) might prefer an Airbnb type accommodation rather than a hotel with the advent of a “virtual hotel brand” built on top of the Airbnb platform.
Several recent trips to San Francisco and Austin have left me with hotel sticker shock. A nice hotel in either city, can easily be $400+ mid-week. It seems crazy and yet I pay the rates. Why? with hotels:
1/ Consistency and simple logistics. I know what I’m going to get and don’t need to wait around to get access.
2/ Amenities. On premise dining, nice towels and a gym go a long way.
This is where a virtual hotel comes into play — this brand or service would provide curation and standardization. Offer logistics and amenities surpassing old-school hotels, while leveraging the best of Airbnb: kitchens, space and authenticity.
When you’re on a tight travel schedule, knowing what you will get is crucial. People will pay sky high prices at the Four Seasons because they know the property, experience and service will consistently be first-class.
To help standardize business travel on Airbnb, I could see someone effectively curating a number of properties in different cities with great locations and access to local amenities (gym, spa, etc). I’d come to trust this new hotel brand and be okay booking sight unseen — no need to scour maps, read reviews or go back and fourth with the owner. This new hotel would make getting the key a breeze — perhaps they would have an Uber pick me up at the airport, and the driver would hand me the key prior to dropping me off at the front door. Maybe it becomes keyless.
The virtual hotel would layer on value-added services mimicking (or exceeding) a hotel. Rather than the host’s potentially crappy towels, the virtual hotel would have arrived in advance, checked out the apartment and equipped it with high-end towels, soaps, etc, and maybe added a few local beers to the fridge. It would also provide a daily maid service (optional) and have prearranged deals with boutique fitness studios baking these amenities into the price, or charging me on demand through an app.
The virtual chain might even surpass typical hotel amenities offering to book meeting spaces (WeWork or Breather), or potentially providing a curated dinning experience I’d otherwise not be able to find on my own. Yes, I can obviously already book much of this on my own, but making the experience curated and local coupled with frictionless payments would be great.
A virtual hotel chain like this could easily win my business travel loyalty – and the loyalty of many other. At scale I also believe the margins would back out with lower price points than a typical boutique hotel.