It’s Mother’s Day. A good day to think about hospitality, since for most of us it’s the mothers who in the first place have introduced us to the world of hospitality, in which someone simply offers us a place to sleep and food to eat, fulfilling the basic needs we have so that we can reach further to have the things we do not need but want.
Recently, it’s been Airbnb Inc which has attracted the most attention in the global world of hospitality. Travel industry has taken its share of the exponentially growing and developing digital economy. Moreover, it was Airbnb which quickly became one of the leading pioneers in innovative digital travel. Now Airbnb and the ‘alternative accommodations’ in general have reached even Finland, a country once famous for Nokia but now falling behind, especially when it comes to innovative digital travel services. Here in Finland, Airbnb has also attracted the attention of local mainstream media and the lobbyist of the established hospitality industry, as well as regulators. And like in many other places, Airbnb hasn’t been welcomed with the same amount of hospitality as it is offering to its customers.
The established industry would like to keep the doors shut for Airbnb and other alternative actors while Airbnb, on the contrary, is trying to open more doors for hospitality, welcoming more and more people to places which previously haven’t been open to just anyone to visit. At least not in hospitality purposes. In established hospitality industry , ‘public’ i.e. ‘commercial’ becomes the private, while for Airbnb the private becomes the ‘public’ i.e. ‘commercial’. Simply explained, Airbnb offers a digital service through which people can rent beds, rooms, flats, houses and even yurts. Basically, homes are turned to temporary accommodations. Moreover, Airbnb can offer ‘an alternative accommodation’ option in cases like overbooking, while also solving accommodation problems in i.e. mega-events.
“We help cities to expand their offering and make better use of the resources they already have”
© Joe Gebbia, Reuters 27.3.2015
The company itself does not own the real estates in which it accommodates its guests, which has been the traditional way of doing business in established hospitality industry. Basically, Airbnb has created a new way by which people can utilize the resources they have. By relying on digital and innovative solutions and trust, Airbnb is part of the wider phenomenon of sharing economy, in which people and companies flex the rules of the traditional, established economy. Airbnb is not the only one lifting the bar in ‘alternative’ accommodation – i.e. there’s onefinestay. Furthermore, what I do find interesting in part the hospitality industry development and Airbnb, is the way Airbnb is still viewed and labeled as the ‘alternative accommodations‘, although it’s offering the most natural form of hospitality – private persons offering their beds (& breakfast) for visitors. Simply, the company is just modifying and erasing the lines between homes and hotels, sharing and owning, and the way we see the hospitality industry and its offerings.
Since it’s the Mother’s Day, I have been thinking how the mothers have always been real hospitality ambassadors, from whom we all, even the established hospitality industry and policy makers, should learn from. Every mother has their own way of doing it, but nevertheless they all need the suitable environment in which to do their magic. Just think about how mothers keep their doors open for the ones in need and how they turn their resources to a one kind of hospitality industry, fulfilling the basic needs of the ones they care for. Mother’s, I would say, are the original hospitality ambassadors and for the hospitality industry it would be wise to look at what and how they do it, rather than intentionally sticking to their conservative thinking and way of doing. Moreover, if and when we wan’t to keep up with the digital revolution, we should learn from the way Airbnb has brought us the digital solution to a real problem in current hospitality environment. If we bring this back to Finland, I would say that Finland should be aware of its image as a society of trust and build from that when it comes to the future of hospitality and digital innovations.
While I was writing this, I noticed the following tweet and couldn’t help but smile. Although Airbnb has decided to use the term belonging, not hospitality, I would say we are on the same track in this.