Hotels and Airbnb have their own differences in refunds, cleanliness and privacy, and new competitors have also invaded.

Editor’s note: This article comes from WeChat public account “Global Travel News” (ID: Traveldaily)

Over the years, short-term rentals have put a lot of pressure on hotel prices and occupancy rates. Nowadays, factors such as social isolation, health and epidemic prevention, and refund policies for bookings may once again change the game between short-term rentals and hotels.

Airbnb, founded in 2008, has upended the hotel industry. It has taken away the share of the accommodation market, put pressure on hotel prices, inspired the birth of affordable brands, and pushed a large number of hotels to open restaurants, bars and lobbies, injecting local vitality.

But Airbnb recently laid off a quarter of its employees, indicating that it is facing financial pressure.

Did the new crown epidemic subvert this former subversive?

“I think hotels will have short-term advantages.” Henry Harteveldt, an accommodation analyst and founder of Atmosphere Research, said that hotels will have an advantage over Airbnb in health and standardized social distance policies.

The entire industry is seeking recovery. The hotel and the short-term rental industry are competing. Both are striving to convince the public that they are providing virus-free rooms, fair cancellation terms, and services that maintain an appropriate social distance.

Unstandard unsubscribe terms

A large wave of cancellations caused by the epidemic made passengers suddenly realize that there were so many different terms in the booking: passengers with good luck can only receive a full refund if they unsubscribe at the last minute. Good passengers will be deducted from the fine even if they unsubscribe a few months before travel.

Since the outbreak, most hotels have provided a very loose cancellation policy. Passengers can change their orders for free within 24 to 48 hours before arrival.

The hotel also has some rates that are paid in advance and do not support refunds. These are generally the lowest rates. Even so, most large hotel groups such as Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt still provide free refunds for such orders. Some hotels even extended the period for supporting free refunds to the end of June.

Under the public health and economic crisis, “the first task of tourism brand managers is to be friendly,” said Chekitan Dev, a professor of marketing and management communications at the Cornell University School of Hospitality. He believes that for the hotel industry to start to recover, it is necessary to introduce a refund policy that is as tolerant as possible, and to stimulate passenger bookings through services such as free upgrades.

By contrast, guests of vacation rentals realized this crisisRead the importance of the unsubscribe policy carefully, but they found that the unsubscribe rules for short-term rentals are not standardized.

In December last year, Jessica Bradford of South Pasadena, California, booked a four-bedroom house in Southern Maine with friends on Airbnb, and planned to stay in July this year for a week. But in late April, Maine required all people arriving on the ground to implement a 14-day quarantine, and the rule is not expected to end until August.

Bradford is about to cancel the reservation, only to find that this house with a rent of $ 7,000 a week can only be cancelled for free within 48 hours after booking. After this time, if you unsubscribe one week or more after the reservation date, you can only refund 50% of the room rate.

“I haven’t read the terms myself, but this unsubscribe policy is too harsh.” Bradford said. She is still fighting to get back the remaining $ 3,500.

Airbnb refused to respond directly to Maine ’s short-term rental orders, but pointed out that the company has extended its force majeure environmental policy to provide refunds for bookings from March 14 to June 15, this is the company The third time extension. Bradford booked in July, and she hopes this policy will be extended again.

This case illustrates the problem of unstandardized short-term unsubscribe clauses. For Airbnb, the landlord can choose the unsubscribe policy, some are flexible, some support refunds 24 hours before check-in, but some are very strict, as Bradford suffered.

Airbnb claims that more than 60% of landlords provide flexible or relatively flexible unsubscribe policies. The company has now added a search filter that will help travelers filter out listings that offer flexible unsubscription terms.

So, the winner of the unsubscription clause is: Hotel.

Refund dispute

Like other vacation rental companies, Airbnb chose to support passengers to cancel reservations before March 14 and guide the landlord to provide a refund, even if the guest is fined according to the original cancellation rules set by the landlord.

This decision satisfied travellers, but angered some landlords. Later, Airbnb set up a $ 250 million fund to partially compensate those landlords whose income was affected. & scene = 21 # wechat_redirect “> launched his own direct booking site.

Expedia’s vacation rental company VRBO has adopted a different strategy: require the landlord to provide a 50% refund or allow passengers to modify the order, and delay the check-in time for not more than 1 year, but in the end VRBO failed to avoid disputes.

In order to hold a bachelor party, Ashley Gordon in New York rented a house in Scottsdale, Arizona with her sister and a few friends. The check-in time is April 2-5, and the total cost is $ 5,700. In February, they paid $ 3,100. On March 11, they worried that the epidemic would not end when they traveled, so they contacted the landlord to cancel the trip. The landlord insisted that the terms of the contract required 30 days’ notice, which meant they had to pay the remaining $ 2,600.

“If the airline provides a refund, we will also consider doing so.” The host said, “At present, you have signed a contract with me, and you agreed to the terms and conditions when booking on VRBO.”

Gordon found it difficult to deal with the landlord, she persuaded a VRBO customer service representative to call the landlord (she said VRBO told her that only the landlord can cancel the reservation or change the terms). The landlord finally agreed to change their booking dates, stay within 12 months, and cancel the remaining $ 2,600. However, because the transaction process with the landlord was unpleasant and there were many uncertainties in the epidemic, she did not intend to rebook.

“VRBO evades responsibility and confronts the landlord with the tenant, which shocks me.” she wrote in the email. “Travelers will not forget how they are treated. I will only use Airbnb in the future. Anyway, a 50% refund will be fair to tenants and landlords. But for houses that do not live, VRBO even cleans Fees are not refunded to us. This is a bad moment for anyone (including the host), but VRBO had the opportunity to choose to do the right thing, but they relieved themselves of all responsibilities. “

VRBO did not respond to this.

Winners of this round: The hotel has an advantage in controlling the refund policy.

Comparison of sanitary conditions

If the new coronavirus vaccine is developed and travel is widely released, every place that provides overnight accommodation-from motorhomes and yachts to hotels and short-term rentals-must win back the confidence of travelers. There is a way to do this: keep your house as clean as a hospital.

“Clean and hygienic will be the latest standard for five-star restaurants or high-end hotels.” Harteveldt said. “PinBrand hotels or individual hotels that are good at business will have unmatched advantages of shared bed and breakfast, because the hotel will use professional or industrial-grade cleaning products. The staff of the housekeeping department will receive professional training to meet the standards of hotel hygiene. At the same time, the hotel will also have a marketing budget to promote this advantage. “

Many hotel groups have established new sanitation standards in accordance with the regulations of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Marriott began to use electrostatic spray technology to spray disinfectant, which can be sterilized in a large area in the room. Hilton, in collaboration with Mayo Clinic and Lai Su disinfectant manufacturer, is preparing to launch a new room seal in June. This seal indicates that no one has entered since the room was cleaned and placed disinfection in high-frequency contact areas such as elevators Wipes.

The American Hotel and Lodging Association issued a new safety guide, which includes the use of sterilization items to improve the cleaning level, social distance marking, and telling passengers how far they should stay while waiting at the front desk.

Vacation rental companies are also advocating new cleaning solutions. Airbnb released a new standard last month according to the guidelines of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which includes that guests need to wait 24 hours after checking out before cleaning the room, and wear masks and gloves when cleaning. Airbnb will tag landlords who follow these regulations.

Vacation rental management companies that hire professional cleaning staff have also announced their improvements.

Austin, Texas-based vacation rental company TurnKey Vacation Rentals operates more than 5,000 properties in the United States. It arranges housekeeping staff to work through an app, maintains a customized cleaning list for each property, and asks them to upload photos. Use this to check the work.

So, in this round of hotel comparison with Airbnb, who won?

Although the hotel occupies an advantage in advanced clean technology, the hotel ’s unique public spaces, such as elevators and lobbies, may discourage travelers. “From a health perspective, there may be some people who think the homestay is better.” Harteveldt said, “In this competition, the hotel may not have a winning ticket.”

So, the comparison between the hotel and Airbnb in terms of cleanliness: a draw.

Private and isolated accommodation space

In an era where social distance is required, short-term rental will rely on more private accommodation space services to win.

“The vacation rental industry is positioned to maintain an appropriate social distance.” Joseph DiTomaso, co-founder and CEO of the vacation rental search engine AllTheRooms, said, “Many tenants have never even seen a landlord. Access only requires a password lock Security password. “

The company ’s data analysis department found that from mid-February to the end of March, the fastest-growing areas for short-term rentals are small towns, such asConcan, Texas, Getseyville, California, and Bridgehampton, New York.

“These data show that people are fleeing from big cities to small villages, small cities, or waterfront towns. The spread of the new coronavirus has basically caused market demand to shift to small suburban short-term rental markets.” The report said.

Vacasa, a rental platform headquartered in Polanto, Oregon, has 26,000 listings worldwide. The platform claims that its most recent booking stay is an average of 6 days, while in normal days, the booking stay is generally 3 days, the most growth Quick area in the suburbs.

Compared with short-term rentals, hotel space is more densely populated, so greater efforts must be made to meet the requirements of social distance. Luxury hotels are even considering suspending room service for employees to enter guest rooms to reduce interpersonal contact. Marriott travelers will push the room service cart into the room themselves.

In the future, the hotel industry will learn more from highly automated hotel service brands such as Yotel. Yotel is a relatively affordable brand with hotels in New York and other places. The lobby terminal machine can check in and issue a room card, and then the robot will help store the luggage.

“Checking in a contactless hotel will become a new luxury experience.” Harteveldt said.

This also means that active bars, lively restaurants, and sky pools will be much quieter now.

So, in terms of providing private accommodation: the short-term rental industry will outperform the hotel industry.

New competitors

Hotels that provide long-stay services, such as the mid-range Hilton Home2 suite and the high-end AKA, have long served business travelers, contract workers, and families planning to move. Nowadays, their living quality is greatly improved, the space is more open, and the kitchen is an excellent choice for people living in the city.

“Airbnb awakens everyone’s needs, and even short-term stays can choose apartment space.” Roost Apartments has 3 hotels in Philadelphia, and its co-founder and CEO Randall T. Cook said, “but It ’s a different landlord and lacks a consistent accommodation experience. ”

Roost plans to expand its business to Charleston, Detroit and Tampa. Its location is between the hotel and the shared apartment. Units, and facilities such as shared bicycles.

Sonder, another short-term rental company, also operates well-equipped apartments, whose listings are scattered in 36 cities around the world. Sonder believes that its business model can meet the needs of passengers because they can achieve contactless check-in, provide concierge services by phone and messaging (and dedicated response service), and provide apartments with kitchens and washing machines.

At present, although the occupancy rate of hotels and short-term rental apartments has fallen to the bottom, Sonder said that its occupancy rate is around 65%, and Roost is 55%. They have upgraded cleaning procedures.

“We generally clean once a week, but mainly depends on the needs of travelers.” Cook said, “because we found that some travelers do not want any cleaning services.”

Will apartment hotels become a new competitor in the accommodation industry? The change may have just begun.

* This article was compiled by Ariel from the New York Times.