Airbnb enters the meetings market: Should you worry?
We recently read a stat in WIT that after corporate travel, the meetings market (or MICE as it is called) is the next most lucrative sector for hotels and is the slowest in tech adoption. So it’s unsurprising that disruptive travel companies are shaking up the market. For independent hotels, this means both opportunity and increased competition, and we are keen to work with our hotel partners to identify how they can best promote their hotels’ meeting space.
Airbnb finally announced a few days ago that Airbnb for Work is expanding into services and experiences for a workplace audience to “help foster a sense of belonging—even at work.” We say finally because for those who have been monitoring Airbnb’s growth, it’s been clear that the company has been looking to expand into the workplace. Back in April 2018, Airbnb for Events was launched, aimed specifically for planners. The tool encourages attendees to book Airbnb accommodations through an interactive map of Airbnb listings embedded directly on the event site.
Airbnb reports this month that 700,000 companies have had employees sign up and book with the company’s business platform. Of all these companies, more than 300,000—up from 275,000 a few weeks ago—are directly engaged with Airbnb to help manage their travel.
A statement on Airbnb’s website said: “Offering unique ways to travel for work will remain core to Airbnb for Work, but we estimate only 25% of employees within a company travel for work...With Airbnb for Work’s new expansion into team-building experiences, homes for offsites and meetings, and relocations, we now have an opportunity to bring the magic of Airbnb to the rest of the workforce.”
Airbnb is banking on corporate customers seeking experiences and something different from a traditional hotel meeting room. However, as we previously reported, with an annual global growth rate forecasted at 7.5 percent from 2017 to 2023, the MICE industry was valued at $752 billion in 2016 and is projected to reach $1.245 trillion in 2023, according to Allied Market Research. This means that there is plenty of room for competition and independent hotels should not be worried about Airbnb stealing away MICE business. But independent hotels must become smarter in how they design and market venues.
In the June 2018 edition of the IACC’s Meeting Room of the Future: A Survey of Meeting Venue Operators and Suppliers, there were a number of insights that support Airbnb’s assumption that corporate delegates are seeking experiences, and more worryingly for hotels, that there is a disconnect between what customers want and what venues believe they want. For its annual survey, the IACC collected feedback from meeting planners and a range of venues, from hotels to conference centres.
Meeting planners indicated that their role not only involved more “experience creation” but that experience creation would become more important in the coming years, pointing to Millenials and other younger generations as the drivers of this trend. However, venue operators are heavily reliant on meeting planners to create experiences and 43 percent felt it was never or only sometimes their role to create experiences.
60 percent of venue operators feel that the flexibility of meeting spaces will become more important over time. Suppliers named flexible, “non-traditional” meeting room furniture as one of the biggest trends in meeting space development and design over the past three years. Many venue operators have noticed last minute requests for meeting space layouts to be changed mid-meeting to stimulate and reinvigorate the delegates. As such, venues are focused on ensuring their meeting spaces can be easily adapted to a variety of events and audiences.
While in 2017, 57 percent of venues said they do not offer collaborative technology to client, this number decreased to 38 percent in 2018. And in fact, 28 percent said they offer these services free to use (a dramatic increase from 11 percent in 2017). Video conference and screen sharing are the most popular technologies on offer, but virtual reality has seen the biggest uptick in adoption.
So what should you do with all this information?
First, we suggest you conduct a thorough audit of your hotel’s meetings spaces (how many you have, how often are these booked, what events are the most popular, which are the least popular, how many delegates do you have on average, etc) as well as a review of your competitors and the local market (what are the annual events in your area, what types of events are popular with your competitors’ customers, what trends are driving the MICE industry in your area, etc).
And secondly, we would very much encourage to get in touch with a member of our business development team to discuss your business’s MICE goals and how Amistad Partners can help you meet them.