Three hospitality trends Airbnb, Google, and Marriott are tapping to drive growth:
- Airbnb is capitalizing on the increase in remote work by providing more options for longer stays and enabling travelers to split their trip between two homes.
- Google is leaning into consumers’ growing commitment to sustainability and offering new tools to help them make eco-friendly travel choices.
- Marriott responded to the post-pandemic world’s increased demand for home rentals by beefing up its portfolio of its Homes & Villas spin-off.
Travel is coming back post-pandemic, yet it will never be the same — and the onus is on the industry to pivot and evolve, according to leaders from iconic companies like Google, Marriott, Airbnb, and others who attended the Skift Global Forum conference in New York City.
A few things have taken shape. One bit of good news is the emergence of “revenge travel.” That pent up demand from too much time at home has many folks itching to travel.
Travel spending at the height of the season in summer 2022, for example, was roughly at 2019 levels in July, according to the U.S. Travel Association. People are hitting the road and, despite high airfares and inflation, are all too happy to spend money accumulated during the pandemic on traveling.
According to Seth Borko, Senior Research Analyst at Skift, consumers in the U.S. and Europe have more than a trillion dollars saved. Another factor likely to continue fueling industry growth is the “great merging”: the line between work and leisure that is blurring as people can work from anywhere. “People who would have taken a five-day trip are now going for 10 days because they work while away,” said Borko.
Add to that the rise of digital nomads, who wander the world while they work, and that’s the kind of growth that will help speed up the recovery.
While business travel is trending in the right direction, it may not reach pre-pandemic levels for another few years, Borko said. And it will look different. “Business travel will be for everyone — not just salespeople, but finance and marketing folks, among others,” he said.
Executives from Marriott International, Google Travel, Airbnb, and Expedia
shared insights on the trends driving business and their strategies for growth.
Expedia: Adapting to a changed travel landscape with service-minded innovation
Peter Kern, CEO of Expedia, said the exponential growth of online travel agencies (OTAs) is likely over. “The easy money has lessened as people are again using travel agents. When people are nervous about travel, they want to talk to an agent,” he said.
But that doesn’t mean OTAs will fade into the background. Hardly. “It’s about investing in service and innovative products. There’s still plenty of growth for people to move from offline to online agencies,” Kern said.
Expedia launched its One Key
loyalty program last year. Travelers can earn and use points across the company’s many brands including CheapTickets.com, Hotels.com and Orbitz, among others. It also offers ancillary products, like fraud detection services and features designed to enhance service, like its Trip Boards, where friends and family traveling together discuss hotels and activities, conveniently collaborating about their trip.
Expedia’s home-rental platform Vrbo did amazingly well during the pandemic, said Kern. “People really liked being in a home with just their bubble. A lot of people experienced the product. When Vrbo was an answer on a New York Times puzzle, I felt like we made it.” He expects Vrbo’s growth to continue.
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Marriott: Listening to customers to unlock new opportunities — like home rentals — in uncertain times
Despite headwinds like social and political unrest, inflation, and increasing interest rates, Anthony Capuano, CEO of Marriott International, is optimistic.
He reported that in the first quarter of 2022, for example, the company signed more transactions globally than in any first quarter in their history and replicated that in the second quarter. He also said group bookings are strong and back to pre-pandemic levels.
The company taps its Marriott Bonvoy
members to test ideas. Capuano said the company surveyed its members and they told them that they wanted more home experiences. Marriott has beefed up its Homes & Villas home-rental platform, a draw especially for the growing number of multigenerational travelers.
Customer input influenced the hotel chain to develop a Moxy hotel in Nashville that is in the heart of Music Row. “We have some ‘vampire rooms’ — rooms with no windows because the musicians who stay in the hotel come in at 5 a.m. after playing all night and they like dark rooms,” he said. They’re a hit.
[Read: Hospitality Brands Are Tapping the $919 Billion Wellness Tourism Trend]
Hundreds of millions of people are glued to their screens working remotely, people need to connect, and travel will be the way they do it.
Brian Chesky, Co-founder and CEO, Airbnb
Google: Getting serious about sustainable travel
Sustainability is a huge priority for many travelers. Last year, Google Travel launched a tool
to help consumers make sustainable travel choices by being able to find carbon emissions estimates on their flight search results and booking pages. For example, travelers can filter for low emissions and can also search for eco-certified hotels.
Richard Holden, Vice President, Product Management for Google Travel, says the company has gone a step further and is working with certification bodies, such as green building rating system LEED, to add key sustainable information on hotels.
Google last year launched train search services so people can access train options in Germany, Italy, Spain, and Japan. Consumers get a link to the service provider and can then book a ticket. “This is just the beginning; we hope to expand into other markets. It will be similar to Google Flights,” said Holden.
Airbnb: Focusing on inspiring travelers in the age of remote work
In 2022, Airbnb rolled out what it describes as the biggest change in a decade. Airbnb Categories is a new way to search for homes, be it domes, cabins, windmills, or OMG! (a category that has unique dwellings like a boat shaped house, silo, and a covered wagon). Then there’s the split stays feature, which provides more options for longer stays by enabling travelers to split their trip between two homes.
Airbnb CEO and Co-founder Brian Chesky said change is necessary, as he foresees “a new golden age of travel,” he said. “Hundreds of millions of people are glued to their screens working remotely, people need to connect, and travel will be the way they do it. But traveling will be less about landmarks and more about experiences, and even people traveling for business travel will be less about a sales meeting and [more] about meaningful bonding over travel.”
To meet those needs, Chesky said Airbnb will be “more about inspiration and giving more information and ideas about where to travel.” It also will take steps to make travel easier financially, and is exploring buy now, pay later and installment payment options. “With so many people working remotely, they will want longer stays. We want to increase our inventory that’s ideal for longer stays and to make them affordable — that’s where the growth will be.”
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Published February 22, 2023