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Just like Uber has changed on-demand transportation, Airbnb is significantly impacting the operating environment for traditional hotels. I have to admit I have resorted to booking rooms through Airbnb recently, and I do not see myself going back to the traditional hotel.

Here’s why – I am heading to an annual six-day convention in Tennessee this next week. It’s a huge draw, and as a result, all of the hotels in the area boost their prices to capitalize on the opportunity. In the past I’ve simply booked a room at the property attached to the expo center – knowing that I am paying at least double the rate I would if I was there any other time. This year I did an Airbnb search, and ended up with a two room cabin less than ten-minutes away from the convention space. It includes two baths, a full kitchen and mountain views for the same cost as two nights in the hotel.  

However, it’s not just the substantial price difference that won me over. It’s the uniqueness of the space—which with Airbnb can range from someone’s couch to an entire house. Considering Airbnb’s phenomenal growth rate and valuations rivaling firmly entrenched hotel giants, I am not alone in my sentiment.  

The question is: What action can traditional hotels take to differentiate and effectively compete today? It might be time to reinvent the “hotel experience” right down to the meeting room. I’m talking about catering to the business need. The Airbnb experience is a great “home away from home” experience. But when I’m on a business trip, what I really need is an “office away from home” experience. Amenities that help me communicate, collaborate and close business speaks volumes to me, especially when those amenities leverage all the digital tools they allow me to take my office on the road.  

Just consider the tradition hotel “business office” and meeting facilities. Most are far from adequate – only providing the business guest a few tools they can use if they are in a real pinch. If they do have true meeting rooms, they are often little more than space or have bulky, outdated A/V technology that fails to work with many of today’s tools. But my business has grown up and I need the same conveniences as if I am in my own office space. I need immediate, secure access to a high speed data network, and the ability to make interactive, big screen presentations when necessary using my own tablet, laptop or smartphone. And easy, real-time digital collaboration with meeting guests, well that would put me over the top of my meeting c.  

Simply providing space isn’t enough today. Hotels need to look at these revenue generating spaces as areas focused on fostering collaboration. The Marriott Hotel in München, Germany is a prime example. Management recognized the need to embrace wireless, flexible technology that provides guests with an easy to use, interactive environment that does not require IT involvement – true plug and play. Marriott recognized that today's business user expects on-demand availability that simply works. There’s no longer time to wait for IT to set-up a room and train users on equipment.

Granted, offering the business guest access to digital-ready meeting spaces, is really just the start. Hotels need to focus on revitalizing the guest room experience—transforming that experience into the digital age as well. However, investing in meeting room reinvention definitely reopens an avenue for revenue generation as I look for adequate space to meet with prospective clients.


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