World Panel
Viewpoint27 November 2020

How big of a threat to the hospitality industry is Airbnb’s upcoming IPO?

Digital Marketing in Hospitality

— 10 experts shared their view

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This viewpoint was created by
Max Starkov, Adjunct Professor NYU Tisch Center for Hospitality and Hospitality & Online Travel Tech Consultant
Peter O’Connor
Professor of Strategy at University of South Australia Business School

With a more explicit mission to maximize value for shareholders as a result of going public, Airbnb will move quickly to leverage its powerful brand and extensive online audience to realize its potential as a mainstream lodging platform.  see more

With choice and availability of inventory the key issues for attracting and servicing today's travel customers, the company will have to find a way to incorporate traditional forms of accommodation such as hotels and B&Bs alongside its current, primarily sharing economy, inventory. Peer-to-peer rentals alone will simply not be enough to cut the mustard!.

Thus my prediction is that Airbnb will rapidly transform itself into an online distribution channel for hotels, increasing competition for the existing global OTAs and providing more choices for consumers. And as such, I welcome this move as an opportunity, not a threat, for the hotel sector.

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Simone Puorto
Founder | CEO | Futurist

Unlike most of its competitors, Airbnb was able to turn a profit (even though mainly due to significant cost cuts) even in this turbulent year, with $219 million in Q3. Moreover, the IPO date has been set just weeks after the Pfizer, BioNTech, and Moderna vaccine announcements infused new hope to the industry and made the stocks of competitors such as Expedia Group and Booking Holdings rise. Bottom line is that I would personally buy Airbnb stocks, but that's not the point. My two cents is that the company's IPO will negatively impact hotels' performances, already hit by the COVID-19 crisis and that the only weapons hotel will have to fight back will be to keep lobbying for stricter and more severe regulations for the home-sharing industry. It may not be enough, though, and I foresee that Chesky's company will likely cannibalize a good portion of the hospitality space in 2021.

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Max Starkov
Adjunct Professor NYU Tisch Center for Hospitality and Hospitality & Online Travel Tech Consultant

In spite of all the pre-IPO hype, there are a lot of headwinds against Airbnb's unchecked growth:
A) 80% of inventory listings on Airbnb are entire houses and apartments, but there is a limited inventory of these rentable second homes. In 2019 the total count of second homes in the U.S. was 7.4 million, accounting for 5.6% of the total housing stock. Europe's housing stock is less than 5%. Many second homes are not-rentable since they are on the shabby side: cabin in the woods, fishing cabin by the lake, etc. see more

B) The working remotely mandates means that many owners of second homes - potential Airbnb hosts- are now working for months from their second homes (this is what I do currently), which means a segment of the rentable second homes are off the market

C) Real estate sales of new and existing houses are booming, primarily city-dwellers buying houses in suburban or second homes in vacation areas and moving there. This further depletes the limited housing stock of second homes.

These are the reasons why listings on Airbnb dropped from 7 million in 2019 to 5.8 million today.

D) Due to the pandemic, popular are rentals of holiday villas/stand-alone vacation homes in resort areas, sector dominated in the U.S. by Vrbo; urban inventory, dominated by Airbnb, is definitely out of favor.

E) Airbnb is embroiled in legal actions all over the world. Many municipalities have imposed severe restrictions on short term rentals (min 30-day stays, maximum 90 rental days per year, etc)

In my view, to sustain growth, Airbnb has to go big in the following directions post-IPO: a) expand rapidly in the APAC region, and b) enter hotel distribution as a full-fledged OTA and challenge the duopoly of Booking and Expedia. To achieve both, Airbnb will be facing even greater headwinds: high costs, acquiring new core competencies, new tech stack, new expertise, and new business models. 

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Erik Muñozsupplier view
Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) at Lybra.tech

A successful IPO will place Airbnb in a much stronger financial position so they can remove the high cost (at 11% interest) of their recent funding and prepare to operate profitably again.  The threat of Airbnb will be felt by hotels that are perceived to be "risky" in terms of Covid-19 transmission prevention, eg. large hotels with busy public areas.  Without going into detail on the benefits of Airbnb accommodation vs a hotel, motel or resort - the pandemic has created awareness in the public of social distancing and remaining within a "social bubble" - which plays really well into the majority of Airbnb accommodation offerings (being a private residence, no lobby or elevator packed full of strangers).  I believe Airbnb are a threat to many average hotel operators, even without funding from an IPO.  A solid Airbnb just means they are here for the long haul and will likely have a detrimental impact on a section of the hotel market.  Smart hotel operators offering consistent and predictable high levels of service will not be impacted too negatively by Airbnb, IMHO.

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Larry Mogelonsky
Managing Director Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited

The Airbnb IPO is interesting but has nothing to do with the success (or failure) of their business. Airbnb is the game-changer in our industry. Their value reduction as stated above is representative and consistent with all publicly traded hotel companies. I do not necessarily agree that their market share reduction has anything to do with competition. Rather, this is probably a function of reduced inventory due to inventory restrictions levied by some municipalities and rental unit conversion to long term occupants. This is just a short term blip. Rest assured this will be a very successful IPO and Airbnb is not going away! Airbnb is the de facto accommodation market leader.

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Charlie Osmondsupplier view
Co-Founder & Chief Tease at Triptease

Welcome to 2020. Airbnb is part of the hospitality industry already. Get over it. 

I hope IPO cash might help them ease Expedia and Booking's oligopolistic power. I hope IPO cash might have them boost a faster global return to travel. I suspect it's rather marginal for hotels on both counts. 

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Linchi Kwok
Associate Professor at The Collins College of Hospitality Management

Like most hotels were doing when the pandemic hit, Airbnb reported a 90% drop in booking or a $400 million adjusted loss in the second quarter. Additionally, Airbnb laid off 7,500 employees, 25% of its workforce, and immediately cut its marketing budget by 14%. see more

Nevertheless, Airbnb booking has already bounced back in the summer while hotels are still struggling with a below 50% occupancy. Airbnb observed a 22% year-to-year increase in booking and attracted over 100,000 new guests in the U.S. to use the platform. Moreover, people are booking long-term stays at Airbnb, which aligns o the strong demand trend of the regular extended stay hotels.

Airbnb is, in fact, more than another big player in the lodging market in terms of market size. It also wants to become a travel enterprise. Airbnb had already acquired HotelTonight in March 2019.

While Airbnb remains a big threat to the existing hospitality businesses, such a disrupter also brings in new ideas. More hotel chains are now getting into the home-sharing business, and their home-sharing arms are doing quite well. We have to accept that Airbnb will stay in the hospitality industry as a big disruptive player.   

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Fabian Bartnicksupplier view
Founder at Infinito

All the IPO will do will pour money into a business that already had billions of money chucked at them. The bigger question will be around the business model in the post-COVID era and how likely guests are using alternative accommodation instead of hotels. Early indications showed that OTA's who own vacation rental sites saw grat increase on those sites whilst all others declined. see more

In regards to share numbers: I wouldn't put too much emphasis on an outdated concept of reporting. Humans are tribal and therefore we shall see fluctuations going forward with platforms being favored based on the trip occasion but not as a "loyalty" over and over. Used when the best fit.

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Mark Fancourt
Co-Founder at TRAVHOTECH

AirBNB is a distribution platform which is for the most part specific to a particular type of accommodation product in terms of AirBNB's core inventory. see more

Naturally, as a distribution platform for inventory the company is both an opportunity and a threat to the hotel sector of the hospitality industry. 

An opportunity because for those players that provide that type of accommodation product, it represents another distribution channel, with better or worse commercial models and a nuanced target audience. If AirBNB elect to continue moving toward traditional hotel inventory, then a more main stream distribution channel for existing inventory. The opportunity being another channel, competition against some of the other larger incumbent players in the market and perhaps a better commercial model and relationship compared to the incumbents, although no guarantees there.

A threat because any distribution platform is a direct competition to hoteliers own direct distribution channels diluting the direct relationship with the company. If AirBNB do move further into mainstream hotel style accommodation then further dilution, customer ownership and increase in costs over and above direct bookings.

Based upon what we are hearing about the prospective value it seems that AirBNB should be cashed up as a result of the IPO. That will translate into more effort on the main product, being the distribution platform and perhaps moves back toward broadening their market appeal from a product range as they had started to before the downturn.

As we look at the homestay market the environment is almost becoming like the hospitality market where there are 'brands' representing bodies of inventory on the AirBNB platform. While it is not a full franchising or hotel management model there are interesting similarities in terms of operations and distribution and even revenue management. There is a whole industry of technology platforms for the homestay market crossing everything from marketing, to operations and guest communication platforms as well as revenue management and content marketing and distribution.  Also more layers of costs in the middle for the 'hotel' or in this case property owner. It's all the same at the end of the day. Also further and further away from a consolidated short term home rental product direct to the owner, which was the genesis of AirBNB. It's for that reason that there is a lot of logic in seeing hospitality brands branch toward homestay product as the business model and disciplines are very similar.

An opportunity and a threat. Depending upon how AirBNB moves with inventory it may result in being another place where hoteliers really do need to have inventory to be visible and relevant to a particular customer type.

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Dori Steinsupplier view
Chief Executive Officer, Fornova

The imminent IPO of Airbnb can be seen as both a threat and an opportunity for the hospitality industry. The prospect of its continued expansion is a timely warning to hotels that there's no room for complacency when it comes to monitoring all competitors and responding to threats. see more

Airbnb can already be considered to be the largest hotel chain in the world by room count. With more than 7.4 million rooms worldwide and 247 million guest arrivals during 2019, they are effectively competing with every hotel in the world and covering all tiers. Now,with access to a billion-dollar investment, there's no doubt Airbnb's dominance will grow, attracting a greater share of flight visitors to its platform and potentially putting it on an even footing with rivals Booking and Expedia.

But, while the rise of Airbnb can be seen as more bad news for hotel chains who risk losing their share of vital business travelers to the vacation rental giant, the IPO could be a welcome boost for boutique hotels who will be eligible to list their inventory on the site and improve their visibility. Read my full article here.

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