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Non-Traditional Travel Services & Events: Part 1

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As event professionals, it’s good to stay abreast of travel and hospitality trends, especially since they are so closely linked to events, meetings and conferences. This is especially true if these trends appear to stay. A newer trend that just might be a game changer are non-traditional or sharing economy methods of transportation or lodging. You’ve probably heard or have used these services: Airbnb and HomeAway on the lodging side and Uber and Lyft on the transportation side.

Young travelers and business professionals are especially receptive to this trend. In fact, according to a study from Allianz, about 60 percent of millennials trust and are knowledgeable of these services, which include Airbnb, Uber and Lyft, and nearly 30 percent of them plan on using at least once service this year.

So what does this mean to event professional who routinely book hotel blocks and make travel arrangements for attendees? Right now it might be hard to tell what the future may bring, but here are some facts and insight to keep in mind before your rethink your hotel block (we’ll get to the transportation services later!).

Facts & figures

In case you didn’t know, websites like Airbnb offer people to list their homes, apartments and other residences to travelers or renters. Though still a new concept, it’s taken off. Here are some general facts about the impact of Airbnb from a recent CBRE Hotels’ Americas Research study:

  • Over the last year, Airbnb users spent $2.4 billion on lodging in the U.S. alone
  • More than 55 percent of revenue was only spent in five major cities: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami and Boston
  • And in those markets, the study says Airbnb represents a “significant portion” of lodging revenues
  • Direct hospitality impacts due to Airbnb might include lower room rates and an impediment on new hotel construction

And if you just think Airbnb is a just a service that young people use to save a few bucks, you may want to think again — even wealthy celebrities like Beyoncé have reportedly used the service. Mansions, castles and other unique and sometimes glamorous lodging options are also offered on websites like this, which are definitely appealing for attendees looking for a unique vacation experience coupled with their business travel plans.

The end of the hotel block?

Bottom line, should you be reconsidering hotel blocks anytime soon? Probably not. The average attendee still wants to be close to the event and hotel blocks, especially with the discount that often comes along with it, offer a lot convenience and affordability which is crucial.

But with the young business professional moving up the ranks who are more open to using Airbnb, it certainly makes finding the right hotel or venue with that extra special element all the more important. Whether it’s making sure the venue is in a great location (downtown or close to local attracts and places of interest) or has important features like free wifi or a variety of food choices, make sure you’re selecting venues that are personalized and tailored to your attendees’ needs. This can be done by tracking attendee data, through surveys, and event ROI. Selecting the right venue can fill your room blocks and keep hotel attrition at bay.

Look out for Part 2 of this non-traditional travel where cover similar transportation services and their effects on the events industry. In the meantime, how do you think lodging services like Airbnb will impact the events industry? Share in the comments below!

2 Responses to “Non-Traditional Travel Services & Events: Part 1”

  1. Kim Estep

    Great topic, Lauren!
    We’ve been researching this topic a lot: with meeting planners, exhibitors, association executives, and friends. The Convention Nation team has participated in events where we’ve signed up for the event after the room block has sold out, and using lodging outside the block has been a great experience. Last week, for example, the ASAE Great Ideas conference was held at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. We rented a house from VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) with 3 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, a full kitchen and dining room, living room, fireplace, Jacuzzi tub,…all the comforts of home! The all-in price was much less expensive than renting separate hotel rooms, and not just because we fixed our own breakfasts. We bonded as teammates and had separation from the conference after-parties when we wanted quiet. No slamming doors at 2 am, no elevator dings, no kids running down the hall, and no fear of stalkers wiring our room with cameras. We think the offsite lodging enriched our experience in Colorado.
    And yesterday, the research pointed in a different direction. Alison Hall from MeetingsNet.com (http://meetingsnet.com/negotiatingcontracts/massive-demand-little-supply-how-deal-economics-meetings-today) made the argument that hotel room supply and demand are unbalanced in the U.S. hotel industry—so much so, that the economics of meetings have tilted to benefit the sellers. She said the meetings industry needs to increase their budgets this year. I wouldn’t think meeting planners would fear AirBNB, since they may eventually work with them like the Consumer Technology Association (the sponsor of CES) did this year. (https://www.cta.tech/News/News-Releases/Press-Releases/2016-Press-Releases/Airbnb-and-TripAdvisor-Join-Consumer-Technology-As.aspx)
    P.S. I thought of one more thing: Airbnb can’t compete with a cruise-ship based meeting! (http://info.conventionnation.com/blog/why-choose-a-cruise-ship-for-a-corporate-meeting-event-or-conference)

    Reply
  2. Lauren Williams

    Glad you enjoyed the topic, Kim! And thank you for the insight! I’ve actually been to the Broadmoor for an event as well (and its one of my favorite venues with its gorgeous views of the Rockies). I can definitley see how selecting an offsite location like that can create a positive group/team bonding expierence, which makes them even more appealing than affordability alone. Overall, people are often looking for a unique travel expierence and, to me, that’s the biggest takeaway from the trend.

    During my research for this post, I also found a couple examples about event organizers working with companies like Airbnb rather than ignore or worry about them. I think we’ll see more of that in the future as well!

    Reply

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