A tale of summer

This week’s slew of podcasts coming out of NewDog tell a tale of summer. They also tell a tale of biscuits and competitive socialising, but mostly they tell a tale of summer. A summer where people had their heads held still, the better to probe their brains. A summer of waiting until 3am for test results to access 8am ferry crossings. A summer where climate change meant that bike rides were through fire-scorched former forests. 

A summer in which the sharing economy continued to play its role, if falling back from its pandemic high. A BVA BDRC travel intent study reported that the hotel sector was returning to pre-pandemic patterns, with urban destinations popular and use of sharing platforms such as Airbnb falling to 2019 levels. 

Hotels were set to capture a 70% share of all paid accommodation on trips this summer, against peer-to-peer lodging, which accounted for one in 10 paid accommodations. 

Matthew Petrie, managing director, BVA BDRC, said: “The sharing economy attracted a disproportionate amount of attention during the pandemic as it was able to take a greater share of travellers with the hotel sector closed. Now that hotels are no longer restricted, consumers have returned to more traditional stays, indicating that the shift was temporary.”

The attraction of the sharing economy has dropped back to that which it had been: giving people the chance to go on holiday in family and friend groups and cook their own food. It doesn’t sound like too much, but really, it is. Particularly when those friends and family have been somewhat elusive over the past 18 months.

The hotel sector has continued to make an effort in this direction, with Marriott International making much of how its sharing offering had allowed it to fill in gaps in its portfolio.

But we know about the attraction of the sharing sector. Most of us used it during the pandemic after all. And IPOs such as Airbnb’s and the upcoming The Travel Chapter, plus SPAC fun with Sonder and Vacasa, means that investors are alive to their delights. 

What we haven’t seen during the pandemic is the hotel sector accelerating anything to compete with peer-to-peer platforms and group-based stays. It’s not like it hasn’t accelerated everything else, including the less-than-likely sitting alone in a room pretending that it’s an office. Not that it wasn’t a godsend during lockdown. But those rooms can get awfully quiet with only BBC World for company. And people are done with quiet. 

While we were thinking about whether having a trundle bed and a kettle in your room counted as suitable competition to a treehouse, Airbnb was busy displaying how grown up it had become by showing off about how many parties it had prevented. In a first for the hospitality sector, the platform had rejoiced at the fun it had quashed. And during a pandemic too. One wonders whether it was planning to licence its ‘party prevention technology’ to Apple to add to its Find My Teenager feature. 

Airbnb said that, since launching in August 2020, this technology had blocked or redirected reservation attempts from nearly 375,000 people. Across France over 240,000 people were blocked, in the UK almost 84,000 people were stopped, and in Spain almost 50,000 people were prevented from making a booking.

Well sing hosanna. Or not.

This bizarre news served to point out the difference between Airbnb and the hotel sector and their positions in, well, the world.  Airbnb does not tend to be welcomed by the local community, which is tired of welcoming hen night after hen night to their residential communities. The local community might fancy doing some partying in a hotel – where partying is allowed – but locals don’t tend to be courted by hotels and locals don’t think abut hotels Like That. 

So here’s your point of difference. We could all use a bit of partying. Maybe hotels would like to get the balloons out. 

Photo: one of our sharing economy chums missing a corner in a rented car. Sometimes it’s better to own. 

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