retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

One of the examples often cited here about how an industry can be totally disrupted by someone from the outside with a good idea is the hotel business - there’s no question that Airbnb has created an enormous competitive threat to companies in the traditional hospitality space, allowing people to do peer-to-peer rentals in less institutional spaces that often provide a far more intimate view of the locality.

In essentially creating this business, Airbnb has more rooms to rent globally than any hotel chain … and it doesn’t own a room or a building. It is just a facilitator, dipping its beak on every transaction, but providing a service that - go figure - people were yearning for but didn’t know it.

Now, a story in GQ talks about how “hotels are trying to swing things back by enticing long-stay customers with homier, more personal options. To try to steal some business back from Airbnb and its peers, the aggressively hip Standard hotels recently announced Stowaway, a program that gives guests staying for a least a week ‘a feeling of home comfort throughout the duration of their stay’.”

What does this mean exactly?

GQ writes: “ Stowaway guests will be able to ‘curate their own environment on property,’ meaning they can get things like a personal concierge, restaurant reservations, a personalized mini bar, and (pending availability) a Tesla to drive them around. (Also, brands love to use the word ‘curate’ as neo-hipster catnip; to be fair, it often works.) The package is far more appealing than that Airbnb ‘just 10 minutes from downtown’ that didn’t have toilet paper … For those who can afford it (and those who can expense it), Stowaway seems like a pretty good deal - you get all the clean folded high-thread count sheets of a hotel (and a bar downstairs!), with a few good bonuses.”

It may be that high-end hotels are better positioned to fight back against Airbnb and its brethren than more value-oriented hotels, but I do like the idea of fighting back. One can see this happening in a lot of chains, where they’ve replaced stodgy front desks with more casual and, they hope, more responsive setups. And I do think that as time goes on, we’re going to see more hotel companies looking for unexpected, consumer-focused, and yes, Eye-Opening differential advantages that they can use in this war against a disruptor.

The only thing that sort of caught be by surprise was the characterization of the word “curate” as “neo-hipster catnip.” I’ve been saying for more than 16 years that MNB curates the news … I had no idea that neo-hipster catnip was what I was offering up. I’ve also been saying that MNB offers “hand-crafted” commentaries … and I suspect that this might be as bad as “curate.”

Who knew?
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