Airbnb and hotels – frenemies at last

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It makes for a good headline to push some type of bloodthirsty battle going on between hotels and Airbnb.

We in the media are brilliant at (and guilty of) doing it – knowing rather contentedly that the awkward juxtapositioning between two different models and styles is also likely to continue.

Hoorah!

Hotels and other forms of accommodation are certainly operating in a different environment, with different competitors, to what they were, say, just ten years ago.

But is it really a battle? Yes, and no.

A recent development in France illustrates that the two worlds can actually co-exist in a very complimentary way.

The luxury Chateaux & Hotels Collection, a chain of 500 properties in Europe (mostly France and Italy), has struck a deal with Airbnb to both expand its distribution and tap into the recently launched Trips initiative.

Now, hotels putting inventory on Airbnb is nothing new.

Franchise owners with Best Western were found to be doing it earlier this year (and had been for quite some time, despite the brand boss not particularly liking Airbnb at all).

But the Chateaux group has signed an official agreement with Airbnb (the first such collaboration in Europe) so that the entire “collection” will be featured as rooms alongside the other three million products on Airbnb.

Furthermore, Chateaux has “created exclusively”, a series of learning experiences that will be marketed as Trips on Airbnb.

The quartet of products is aimed at the gourmet end of the foodie spectrum and cover techniques such as chocolate making and French cooking with renowned local chefs or mixology with an expert bartender.

Airbnb director general in France, Emmanuel Marill, says the launch of Trips was “the most significant development” in its eight-year history.

“We share the same commitment to provide unique, local experiences from people and communities with fascinating talents and skills,” he says of the Chateaux deal.

Somewhat dramatically, Xavier Alberti, Chateaux’s general manager, says:

“This meeting is first and foremost the meeting of two travel actors, two innovative actors, who refuse preconceived ideas and who share the same vision of hospitality: travel must first and foremost be an experience.

“We are convinced that this partnership, between two complementary players in the world of travel, is at the service of the travelers of the world.”

Beyond the hyperbole, there is something to be said for the strategy behind this development.

Distributing rooms on Airbnb is one thing, but clearly the hotel chain has decided it probably has a good chance of not only selling some product but raising awareness of the other things that it can do, such as the culinary experiences.

And, interestingly, perhaps Chateaux is really just thinking of Airbnb as “another marketing channel”, in that it can get people in the front door via a third party and then try and nurture a direct relationship.

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