Not unlike jazz music, conferences can sometimes be about the panels that aren’t heard, the notes between the noise and this year’s International Hotel Investment Forum was much the same.
Attending the panel discussions is not a priority for many of the attendees, preferring to use their time meeting with colleagues and, with Hotel Analyst there to report back for them, why not. Sometimes only first-hand will do though and this correspondent was intrigued to note the marked lack of interest in Housetrip CEO Arnaud Bertrand.
This is a man who holds listings for close to 300,000 properties, only four years after launching. Properties – not rooms. Often centrally located, often cheaper than a hotel room. It has been easy so far to dismiss Housetrip and Airbnb as only of interest to the leisure market, or shortly to be legislated out of existence and that may have explained the lack of fascination in what Bertrand had to say.
It was all very reminiscent of the rise of the online travel agents, who left hotels in the dust a decade ago, then did it all over again with the meta-searchers and Google five years ago. The idea that Housetrip and Airbnb will not pose a threat to the corporate market at some point is to deny one’s capitalist tendencies. It’s an amusing idea that they are sitting around in their meeting rooms not wearing any ties and saying: “Oh it’s OK, we have enough money, we don’t need any of that market” but it may not be overly accurate.
Some of the properties in locations such as New York are high end condos in luxury buildings. Many global companies own apartments for their workforce, it’s only a matter of time before they start considering such properties to deal with the overflow. And once one has visited, and approved a site, repeat business will follow.
What he did have to say? Not very much. The company’s main concern is legislation and it welcomes moves like that in Amsterdam to clarify the position of its hosts. More interestingly, it confirmed that it takes full payment on booking, but then doesn’t pay the host (less its 15%) until two days after the stay, in case there are any problems. So cashflow’s not a problem then…