When Airbnb jolted to market relevance in 2013 and became ubiquitous as of 2015 it was clearly disrupting the hospitality industry, as it democratized the access to alternative staycations. But the idea is not new as people hosted others in various settings throughout history. 10 years ago, and even today for example I still have a choice to book through external agents who listed short term rentals in diverse locations; I still have access to rentals posted by owners in different ways and forms. Redistributing who hosts whom is not a novelty, nor should the hospitality industry be disturbed by the Airbnb phenomenon. They both serve different purposes for different settings. What makes Airbnb a novelty is redistributing this access and making it available on the internet of things like your phones, pads, computers, etc. But still we all have access to hotels.com and orbitz.com where we can book anything anytime. Besides the real disruption is not here, nor is it where hotels are lobbying cities throughout the world to push for ordinance to regulate the Airbnb phenomenon. The real disruptions lay in the different regulations and the myriad of complexities they are imposing on the hosting environment. The Airbnb’s of the industry know that and are passing on the buck to the hosting entities, by imposing on them their tax obligations, or on city ordinances occupancy laws. But by transposing away its responsibilities the likes of Airbnb are becoming more and more elusive. In one instance they are acting upon the hosting entities by taxing them directly and removing that privilege from them. In another instance they are crowdsourcing their customer service experience by creating help forums for people to get answers on FAQs. By doing so, platforms like Airbnb are directly shying away from their responsibilities and redistributing their obligations to the masses. In another practice the pricing analytics these platforms use makes it impossible for anyone to seriously consider them as income and growth generators. As access to these platforms become more and more widespread, margins of serious cash flow become diminished by the inevitable rules of demand and supply.
It’s clear that these predicaments and the departures from best practices in customer service and obligations, the disruptors like Airbnb and Uber (more on this in another blog) if not proactive in addressing these pressing issues will be inevitably disrupted soon.