Google, Facebook and Amazon are far bigger threats to the accommodation industry than Airbnb, a group of industry leaders has claimed.
A panel of hotel CEOs at last week’s NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference in New York argued technology giants were accommodation’s worst enemy because of their ability to gather personal information.
The consensus among some of the biggest names in the industry was that the entrance of tech giants into hospitality, and their ability as intermediaries to gather capture and own guests’ user profiles, meant hoteliers were losing the battle for ‘ownership’ of their customers.
“I think we are in an absolute war for who owns the customer, and it’s a long-term war,” Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson said.
“They are without a doubt trying to take our customers. They want to own our customers.”
Sorenson said he was less concerned about Airbnb than the digital “empires” owning “all of us”.
“This is a battle we are going to be fighting for some time. Each of us is making our bets in this space,” he argued.
Mr Sorenson said the industry was moving towards developing profiles for every customers and needed to monetise that relationship as much as it could.
He said Marriott would fight back via loyalty, concentrate on how the company could effectively deliver value to customers.
Accor Hotels global CEO Sebastien Bazin said he spends 5% of his time worrying about hotel competitors and 50% of time worrying about disruptors.
He argued hoteliers needed to take advantage of every opportunity to interface directly with their customers and pointed out that Google and Amazon never actually meet the guest.
“We just have to take advantage of that moment…That moment of interface is very valuable.”
Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta agreed.
“In a sense, it’s shame on us if we don’t own the customer,” he said. “They sleep with us, they eat with us. They shower with us.”
Mr Sorenson said he did not underestimate Airbnb’s ability to further disrupt the industry, saying accommodation houses would be competing with the home share specialist for years to come.
But as Nasetta commented, the “world is taking care of that” as governments have begun to adopt rules to level the competitive playing field between sharing companies and traditional hoteliers.