Why Airbnb doesn't spell doom for the hotel business ... yet

Airbnb, the tech company that allows travellers to book rooms directly from homeowners, crossed the 2 million listings mark in 2015. And the company has sometimes touted itself as an alternative to hotels.

But according to analysts at Deutsche Bank, the company isn’t a threat to hotel chains — yet.

“Ultimately, Airbnb looks to be ‘increasing the pie,’ rather than necessarily reducing the share for others,” said Iona Dent and Geof Collyer in a deep-dive research note Monday. “Currently when cities sell out for an event, for example, and the market rate goes significantly higher than normal, we believe that is where Airbnb is currently offering a key alternative.”

They noted that in many major cities, hotel revenue per available room has stayed roughly the same while the supply of rooms included Airbnb listings have increased significantly. The analysts likened the effect to low-cost airlines.

“Drawing an analogy with the low-cost airlines, such as easyJet and Ryanair, it was clear these offerings expanded the travel market and opened up opportunities for those who would otherwise not have been able to travel, or certainly would have travelled less frequently otherwise,” they wrote.

This idea is similar to what Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta mentioned in an earnings call in October, noting that Airbnb was not a “major threat” to his company’s business.

The effect is heterogeneous across markets, said the note, and cities such as Paris and New York have seen a larger impact from the startup than London and Madrid.

On the other hand, wrote Dent and Collyer, the maturation of the company as it expands and refines its offerings could be a problem for hotel chains down the road.

“Given the subsequent successful evolution of low-cost airlines, we believe there is potentially only so far that low-cost ‘alternatives’ can grow the market before they begin to become accepted as mainstream substitutes and steal a ‘slice of the pie,'” said the note.

Airbnb mapAirbnb.comAirbnb’s map of active listings in the US. Every dot is a customer staying in an Airbnb, and every little person is a check-in.

The company has recently launched a foray into the lucrative business-travel market, and while it does face some disadvantages, the analysts said that tweaking the offering could take market share from hotels.

Ultimately, said Dent and Collyer, Airbnb is more a complement than a replacement in the short term, but hotel chains shouldn’t ignore the threat totally.

“Experience from the media and retail sectors have shown how rapidly incumbents can decline in the context of technology facilitated ‘disruptive’ entrants,” said the note. “In media in particular, companies and investors alike were slow to admit the fundamental transition that was occurring in their industries because of what was the ‘norm.'”

It seems that hotel chains are safe, for now.

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