So many years after Airbnb’s genesis, the articles suggest, surprisingly its impact on the hotel industry is still unclear! Has it put hotel margins under pressure? Has it dented their occupancy levels? The jury seems still out, though considering you meet so many who have switched to Airbnb from hotels, it is strange indeed.
The thought that often strikes me is the opposite though. Shouldn’t hotels seriously look at homes as a business opportunity? Their strength in the areas of housekeeping, catering, security etc. seems particularly useful if we look at some of the trends in living, especially in big metros.
1. Affluent singles and couples as a unit: With delayed marriages and parenthood, many households are just 1-2 people for a longer stretch of time. Add to that the number of long distance husbands living on their own in a work city. These units don’t need the typical 2-3 bedroom apartments. A smaller more efficiently spaced place would do. Even for a 3-4 member family, it should be possible to create a concept which is hotel like.
2. Plug-in-plug-out lifestyles: With rapid changes has come the need for high mobility for professionals. That’s evident in the rise of furnished, ready to move in apartments on hire as well as the business of furniture and durables on rent. The idea of ‘setting up’ a home to ‘settle in’ is only going to decline with time.
3. Outsourcing of kitchens: For a host of reasons cooking at home is declining and it will only go down from here on. On-premise kitchen serving freshly cooked hygenic food round-the-clock will beat restaurant food and heat-and-eat packaged food any day. Add to it the economy of a kitchen cooking for 100plus people everyday as opposed to 100s of individual kitchens.
4. Declining availability of housekeeping staff: Compared to the west, India is still well supplied with ‘maids’, but again, for a lot of reasons including security, training, fairness of pay, a professional, central outfit taking care of all housekeeping sounds like a win-win.
5. Affluent elders: Many not living with their children, also not wanting to live in homes for the aged, but needing access to round the clock support. medical and every other service.
6. Rising maintenance cost of housing societies: Housing societies today are offering many hotel like facilities (security, power back up, swimming pool, gym, housekeeping) and charging for it, suggesting people are willing to pay for such services today. More importantly, most societies do a terrible job!
A business proposition that promises through the year consistent ‘business’, no seasonal fluctuations like in tourism or the uncertainty of business cycles, seems too good to let go in what must be an increasingly tough business environment.
So shouldn’t hotels step back and ask the big question – what business are we in? As the society and the way we live undergoes changes, shouldn’t hotels get into the business of helping people live better?