Everyone has their own preference when it comes to traveling, and the way that people travel seems to be changing. The hospitality industry is constantly looking for ways to deliver an exceptional experience to guests. Recently the hospitality industry has found itself navigating through drastic changes spurred by competition. Airbnb, a home-sharing tech company that has existed for just under a decade, has managed to cause disruption in the traditional hospitality market with the development of a sharing economy.
Airbnb has positioned themselves as a potential threat to traditional hospitality options in small and large cities around the world. Airbnb specializes in making use of pre-existing spaces that are just simply under-utilized; this creates unique options, an increase in the supply of rooms per market, quick turnaround, and little overhead. Airbnb’s disruption to the hospitality industry is forcing many hotel chains to update their strategy and shift away from the traditional model of a hotel, while identifying innovative ways to appeal to prospective guests.
So, how are hotels adapting and working to keep their brands fresh in today’s competitive hospitality industry?
Marriott, for one, is jumping right into the thick of it alongside Airbnb. In late April, Marriott officially joined the home sharing market, with Homes & Villas by Marriott International. Homes & Villas is a home rental initiative like that of Airbnb, but includes some added benefits. Guests of Marriott home rentals share the same opportunities to participate in Marriott Bonvoy, Marriott’s loyalty program, earning and redeeming points, just as the guests of a traditional Marriott hotel do. Homes & Villas guests will also experience the perks that a traditional Marriott hotel offers, such as daily housekeeping services, 24-hour guest support, free WiFi, and high-quality amenities. Homes & Villas by Marriott International is currently offered in 120 locations around the world, 49 of which are cities located within the United States. Like an old political adage says, if you can’t beat them, join them.
Marriott is not stopping there. The brand is also turning its attention to a reimaging project to stay competitive and fresh in the industry – with plans to give the 450 Sheraton hotels a facelift of sorts. Marriott acquired Sheraton through its purchase of Starwood Hotels and Resorts in 2016. Sheraton ranks the third largest of the 30 brands owned by Marriott. One of Marriott’s top priorities after the Starwood merger in 2016 has been the revitalization of the Sheraton brand. Marriott plans to revamp all 450 Sheraton hotels with the goal of bringing a community oriented environment to the hotels, as well as renovating and updating the spaces.
For many people today, acquiring rewards points is of upmost priority and value. With the closing of the Starwood merger, Marriott successfully expanded their brand and in doing so, increased their number of hospitality options and locations available to guests. This, combined with Marriott’s entering into the home market with Homes & Villas, capitalizes on their strive to draw a larger pool of prospective customers.
While the Marriott brand is working to create substantial changes in their traditional model of a hotel, other hotel companies are taking a slightly different, and somewhat smaller, approach to stay competitive and appealing in the ever-growing market.
Hilton, among many other hotels, noticed the fitness-focused trend that continues to emerge and grow across the country. In May, Hilton hotels launched a “Five Feet to Fitness” program. This concept combines the traditional Hilton hotel room with an in-room fitness center. This allows guests to work out in their own private space and have easy access to fitness equipment when traveling, providing yoga mats, weights, a stationary bike, and workout tutorials displayed on a touch-screen display.
Other hotels are beginning to focus more on guest interaction – working to get guests involved in activities offered within the hotel and attempting to keep things as local as possible.
A Charleston, South Carolina hotel, Zero George, offers several unique packages that appeal to a wide variety of guests. The romance package and the pamper package are among their most popular, but Zero George also offers a foodie package that includes cooking classes with local chefs, a beach package complete with sunscreen, hats, and a beach tote, and a photography package, taking guests on a customized, half-day tour of the city.
Although hotel brands are making both major and minor adjustments to compete and stay appealing to guests in the expanding hospitality market, keeping in mind your own travel preferences is key. It is all about finding the amenities that best support everything you desire for your travel experience, and obviously there are many options out there to explore!
What is your preferred way to travel – hotel or home sharing?