October 6, 2015, by Gilad Berenstein, CEO of Utrip
As I read Chip Conley’s analysis about why Airbnb’s platform has been so successful and what he believes the hotel industry is behind the curve on, I could not have been more excited. So excited that I had no choice but to add Utrip's two cents.
Speaking in London, at the Hotel Investment Conference Europe, Chip described the top 4 reasons why hotels are lagging behind:
Travelers want to live like a local—they want a localized experience.
This is at the core of the Airbnb mission and it is a philosophy we’ve held since the beginning at Utrip. One common mistake we see in travel planning is that many people rely solely on the opinions of review websites and travel aggregators. While these are incredibly helpful, they can also be incredibly incomplete.
When someone claims that a certain restaurant is the best place to eat in all of New York I wonder if they really know what they are talking about and how much they actually know about New York City cuisine. I would much rather get my recommendations from someone who eats every meal in the city and not from a person who recently spent a weekend there. This may seem obvious, but by relying on review websites there is an excellent chance you are taking advice from someone who only has cursory knowledge of a destination and is not an actual local.
At Utrip, we partner with Local Experts in every destination so we can find those local and often hard to find places that aren’t showing up on every top 10 list. Utrip also enables travelers to enter custom items and lodging selections, so a traveler can add items like their Airbnb, their tee time, or lunch at Grandma’s house to their itinerary.
People want to optimize digital technology. “The hotel industry is awful at innovating around technology for all kinds of reasons,” Conley said. “One of our success factors is creating a seamless and beautiful digital experience.”
Focusing on the UX and UI of a website is incredibly important and something Utrip takes very seriously. We believe that many hotels are so focused on using all of their website real estate to get you to book a room that they often degrade the site experience and design. If your website is your first impression to many potential customers, and your first chance to provide value and service, then hotels should be more focused on delighting their customers and less on adding flashing dollar signs to every corner of the page.
If a traveler is not ready to make a purchase on their visit to a hotel website, we often find that hotels give their guests and potential guests nothing to do and no reason to come back. This is a major problem and a sorely missed opportunity. By not offering discovery, research, inspiration, and planning, most hotel websites are missing out on an opportunity to engage travelers throughout the vast majority of the travel lifecycle. They are also missing the opportunity to build loyalty by providing a differentiated level of guest service.
People want a la carte services because they desire the ability to personalize. “They don’t want a package of services—they want to be able to choose what they want,” Conley said.
Forcing travelers to purchase things they don’t actually want just to get access to things they do want is no way to build loyalty and trust. Just because you love free breakfast, does not mean you also want a rental car. Consumers want control of their own choices and they want full transparency about what they are purchasing. I believe Chip’s point is that hotels need to listen to what their guests actually want.
Knowing its customers’ tastes beyond what a concierge or front-desk person at a hotel would know. “This is the future disruptor,” Conley said. “We need to know our customers. Our technology needs to know their tastes so you can put a five-day itinerary together for them with suggestions on things to do. That’s the future for us. We’re not an accommodations company; we’re a travel company, and over the next few years that’s what we’ll evolve into.”
Of all the points Mr. Conley made this was undoubtedly my favorite. While utilizing technology to know a traveler’s tastes in order to create a five-day itinerary based on that traveler’s actual personal interests might be the future for Airbnb – this is actually the present for Utrip. I invite you to try making your personalized itinerary on Utrip.com right now!
The digital age and advances in predictive technology have made true personalization possible and companies like Netflix and Amazon have created an expectation of personalization.
By working with Utrip, our partners are able to bring this level of personalized and delightful service to each and every guest. We hope to see hotels listen to Chip’s insights that they need to be in the ‘travel business’ and not just in the ‘accommodations business’.