19 min read

Will There be a Compromise in Airbnb v New York State? Newsletter #35

In Newsletter #35: New York State v Airbnb | Technology to support the hotel concierge | Orchestrating the customer journey on mobile


As we all process the events that have unfolded in the U.S. elections, I’ll stay away from any politics here other than to say I hope the calm and dignified tone given in Donald Trump’s victory speech is a better indication of the next four years than the ostracizing and frenetic campaign that preceded it. While it seems like Brexit all over again, the stock markets ended up and so shall we.

Walking around the WTM floors for the first time, I was enthralled by the vibrant and buoyant booths of so many nations. It really is a spectacle, and reminds us of all the terrific places and diverse cultures in the world.

My thanks to Rafat and Skift for inviting me to a terrific panel on hospitality technology disruption at the show. Sitting next to Triptease and Revinate, we talked about why hospitality tech is the most exciting of the travel tech verticals right now and it truly is. Hotels have been "behind" for some time now in technology, as the experience consumers have at home is so much more connected than in a hotel today. However, with cloud and mobile now well understood, there is a big opportunity for our industry to change this and build platforms that connect the entire hotel staff and their guests. We're lucky to be innovating at this time.

And, by the way -- this piece on hotel concierges below is just one of many good pieces we’ve enjoyed reading in LinkedIn’s dedicated Hospitality channel. I recommend subscribing!


- Alex Shashou





Airbnb banned in New York, and a compromise to follow? 
AVC | Some Thoughts on Airbnb's Struggles in New York State 

Why it matters: This month, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that will levy heavy fines on individuals who advertise short-term rentals of residential multiple dwelling units in New York. In short, Airbnb is being blocked in New York. Great news for hotels perhaps. We have written in the past about data showing Airbnb to hurt hotels, but also conflicting data showing Airbnb data to have not much significance on hotel demand. Either way, it is clear Airbnb doesn’t help hotels, so this news comes as a relief. It will be interesting to see how hotels do without Airbnb in New York - we may finally have a definitive answer to the big question.

We want to highlight a nicely articulated thought piece on this issue by venture capitalist Fred Wilson. In it, Fred opens with the hope “calmer heads will prevail... [and that]...New York State will pass sensible legislation that allows short term rentals when the tenant or owner is not present.” This is a viewpoint we find fair, as we live in an entrepreneurial economy where one should be able to make an extra dime when they can. If someone is away from home and renting out their apartment to earn a little extra cash every so often, we think the impact on hotels would be minimal. However, too many of New York’s landlords have been opting to turn their apartments into full-time Airbnbs instead of renting them out, as they have in the past. These particular units then are not too different from hotels and should be treated then with the same tax, security and infrastructure requirements as hotels.

So, good news for hotels for now and most likely fair news for hoteliers who have had to put up with this surge of new competition playing on an uneven field. Long term, we’d like to see a compromise, as Fred does, as there is a lot to learn from Airbnb. For those that aren’t familiar with Fred, he is one of the leading startup investors in the country, having founded two top tier venture capital firms, Flatiron Partners and Union Square Ventures, which were involved in some of the most promising tech deals of the last decade, including New York Times Digital, Foursquare, Twitter, Etsy, the list goes on… . You can sign up to his blog here.

Technology to support the hotel concierge 
LinkedIn Pulse | The Relationship Between Hotel Concierges and New Technology  

Why it matters: Although online transactions have become the norm for many parts of the customer journey, as Robin Berrendor, MyEventBUTLER co-founder, points out, this is not the case for the bulk of a guest’s in-stay activities: 77% of tourist activities are booked offline and in-destination. “For certain types of activities - such as museums, natural attractions and sightseeing tours - most travelers do not even consider booking in advance,” Berrendor explains. As such, travelers still have a great deal of use for local expertise of the hotel concierge.

Is there a way for technology to still assist during the in-stay phase of the customer journey? Can we use technology to augment the concierge’s capabilities and reduce the concierge’s administrative burden with technology? Berrendorf lists some of the digital innovations that help concierges in the digital age: review sites, for better recommendations, mobile messaging, to better connect the concierge with his guests, and dedicated concierge tools, which can reduce manual, repetitive tasks the concierge performs throughout the day.

ALICE Concierge is certainly one of those tools. We’ve recently introduced several new features to the product, and we’ll be detailing those improvements in a series of upcoming articles -- stay tuned!


Orchestrating the customer journey on mobile is the next frontier 
Luxury Daily | Orchestrating the Customer Journey is the New Black, says Ritz-Carlton Exec  

Why it matters: In October, a panel of luxury travel brands at Luxury Interactive 2016 talked about challenges to orchestrating the customer journey on mobile. Particular points of discussion included the right time to launch a mobile app, what “success” looks like with a mobile app (for Ritz Carlton, that’s retention of the app), and how best to deal with notifications (they have to be contextually relevant).  

Other interesting discussion points were around the why of a mobile app - panelists agreed an app has to deliver an experience a customer can’t get elsewhere - as well as around the how of a mobile app - Ritz Carlton said that to have the app speak for the brand, the company hosted outside developers for orientations on property.

Despite early industry skepticism about the value of mobile to the guest experience, mobile app adoption by guests has never been higher. The American Hotel & Lodging Association released a survey last week, showing the use of mobile apps for hotel service has climbed to a new high of 35% for the industry overall. Another report last week, this time from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), also doubled down on travelers’ preference for mobile: “Americans now overwhelmingly use technology to enhance their travel - especially when it comes to vacations,” said Steve Koening, CTA’s senior director of market research. And, if two reports in one week weren’t enough, Forrester also just released a new report on mobile moments as the next battleground for the hospitality and travel industries. The latter further underscores the importance of hoteliers’ focus and resources towards mobile.



  • Hotels are Investing in Mobile Check-Ins and Services to Make Guests Happy Skift
  • A Hotel Lab is Testing New Products and Tech Amenities by Installing Real-Life "Like" Buttons  Quartz
  • The Secret Lives of Hotel Doormen New York Times
  • Housekeeping Operations Need to Prepare Now for Looming Overtime Pay Law Hospitality Net
  • The Rise of Gamification Across the Hospitality World Hotel Business Review 
  • Where Airbnb May Be More Vulnerable Than Uber The Information (Paywall)


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