Hitting the mainstream – nothing alternative about alternative accommodation now


It suited the industry vernacular for a long time to pigeon hole everything that wasn’t a hotel into the term “alternative accommodation”.

Long before the emergence of Airbnb and even HomeAway, brands synonomous with the concept, accommodation that appealed to people that do not like hotels was considered as something that isn’t part of the mainstream industry.

“It’s what those other people like doing,” would be one way of framing the slightly snobby attitude that the traditional hospitality sector adopted, as if staying in a hotel is obviously something that travellers aspire to achieve in the end.

The creation of HomeAway in the mid-2000s was the most high profile and successful attempt to organise the world’s vacation rentals into a single, web-based platform.

Airbnb’s meteoric rise has set the benchmark for the so-called “shared space” wing of the non-hotel accommodation world.

Yet even with HomeAway’s sale to Expedia Inc in 2015, Booking.com‘s recent efforts and TripAdvisor‘s similar focus on the market, let alone Airbnb’s ongoing growth and targeting of corporate travellers, “alternative accommodation” was still being applied to the sector as if it is some kind of anomaly.

This year, however, research shows that term should probably be banished to the same place as “Timeshare” and others pretty soon – it’s no longer relevant at all.

Speaking at the Phocuswright Europe conference in Amsterdam last week, the organisation’s vice president of research, Douglas Quinby, says the industry is witnessing the “end of alternative accommodation”.

Two factors are playing a part in this: a transformation in both supply and traveller types.

The emergence of a new range of new supply (urban dwellings, essentially anyone with a home that wants to share or rent it out to travellers) is not necessarily something that has happened recently, but it is now hard up against the accommodation supply chain that traditionally belong to hotels.

But perhaps most importantly is the shift in the traveller demographic.

Quinby points to research that illustrates how a new type of traveller (not the traditional users) is using “private accommodation”, the more accurate description for accommodation that is not a hotel.

Back in 2012, just 12% of rentals were secured by guests within a month of the scheduled stay.

This has been turned on its head in the last year or so, with over half (52%) of rentals in 2016 booked in the four weeks ahead of the guest arriving.

The figure is fairly close to the 62% of hotel stays in 2015 that were secured a month or less out.

This is a “fundamental change”, Quinby says, noting that this clearly shows that more hotel shoppers are coming into the rental world.

As Booking.com hinted at earlier in the week, such a shift is probably one of the reasons why its Villas.com brand was folded into the mothership within 18 months.

Accommodation is just that: accommodation, whether it’s frequented by business travellers and leisure travellers, or provided by a huge chain, independent hotel or hipsters wanting to share what it’s like “living as a local”.

The question now is: how to get the non-renters to rent? And how to persuade the 35-54 and 55+ age brackets to also consider private accommodation as an option – around 57% of millennials who haven’t booked a rental property are still considering it, compared to just 13% of over-55s.



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