Thanks to our social media feeds, Netflix queues, Amazon accounts and Google search results, we’ve come to expect our online search results to cater specifically to our interests and needs — including when it comes to travel.
Whenever we enter an online travel search, it’s our assumption that these deals are made just for us and that they’re the best available, but that may not always be the case. According to „Measuring Price Discrimination and Steering on E-commerce Web Sites,“ a study published by Northeastern University in November 2014, numerous travel booking search engines are guilty of price discrimination or price steering. The study looks at hotel and rental car searches across six popular travel booking sites (CheapTickets, Orbitz, Expedia, Hotels.com, Priceline and Travelocity), and is the first of its kind to compare results between real user accounts and synthetically generated ones……
Invisible service hotels are trying to appeal to the Airbnb generation. But will this new hospitality trend take off?
When the cab driver pulled up to the unmarked black building in downtown Nashville, he peered out the window, suspicious, like a parent made to drop off a child in an alley. „That doesn’t look like a hotel,“ he said. „Are you sure? Do you want to double check the address?“
„No,“ I said airily. „This is the place.“ Phone in hand, I checked the confirmation code I’d been emailed the day before and punched a four digit number into the door lock. It slid open. The cabbie shrugged, waved goodbye, and drove off.
The lobby of the 404 Hotel was a small, narrow room that looked like a movie set of a Manhattan loft apartment: polished green apples in a white ceramic bowl, copies of The New York Timesand Wall Street Journal, and a small, brightly colored loveseat. But there was no reception desk or bell stand. Following the instructions in my email, I went up to room No. 3, punched in another code, and let myself in.
The 404 is one of a small number of hotels that cater to the Airbnb demographic: Its „invisible service“ gives savvy travelers many of the amenities they want from a luxury hotel with the freedom that comes with a rented apartment. The apples and the newspapers had clearly been very carefully placed, but by an invisible hand. Over the three days I spent there, I only saw one other person—a fellow guest, who seemed almost embarrassed to make casual conversation over the coffee machine. The room was cleaned each morning, but I saw no trace of the person who vacuumed, dusted, and scrubbed. Nor did I ever meet the person who had emailed me my front-door password and emergency phone numbers, or the one who processed my credit card payment.
The 404’s hands-off approach appealed to me. I’ve been to Nashville before, so I wasn’t looking for a concierge to tell me how to navigate the city; and because it was a working vacation and I was going to be keeping odd hours, I liked the idea of having an apartment-style base of operations. Two of the hotel’s five rooms, including the one I stayed in, have a loft space with chairs, couches, and tables that can easily function as an office.
However, I could also see the downsides of invisible service. What if you’re somewhere where your phone only roams, and data—with that all important email check-in—isn’t available? Or in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language? In that case, a helpful English-speaking concierge is a huge asset. Would I be as psyched to stay in an invisible service hotel in, say, Russia? Or Japan? Probably not.
A few of my Conde Nast Traveler colleagues have stayed in similar hotels, though not all of them use the term „invisible service.“ Deputy consumer news editor Paul Brady stayed at CPH Living, a boat docked in central Copenhagen, where he experienced a similar level of hands-off service but also appreciated that someone provided breakfast every morning. When online editor Krisanne Fordham checked out Manhattan’s citizenM hotel, a similar concept aimed at independent travelers right in Times Square, her reaction was similar—since she already knew the city well enough to go it on her own.
While there aren’t many invisible service hotels yet, this is a field that has major potential for growth. Some cities, San Francisco and New York among them, have cracked down on Airbnb rentals. That could leave an opening for hotels like the 404—great for independent and solo travelers, but safer and more regulated—to swoop in to fill the gap: cheaper than luxury properties but more sophisticated than budget places. It’s still too small a segment of the market—and too soon to tell—but we’re keeping an eye on what could be the hospitality trend of the future.
the platform that lets travellers book private spare rooms and entire homes as an alternative to traditional hotels — is doing some booking of its own. Airbnb is in the process of raising another round of funding that will value it at $20 billion, according to sources familiar with the situation.
The company is believed to be in the process of raising a war chest of close to $1 billion — with about half of that secured. We’ve heard that Airbnb has been courted by investors out of Asia, as well as larger private-equity groups. We’ve not been able to confirm the exact names yet, but one that has come up is Fidelity. Previous investors in the company include TPG, T. Rowe Price, Dragoneer, Founders Fund, Sequoia, DST and more.
Airbnb, founded in 2008 and based in San Francisco, has been on a growth tear in the last several years.
It’s one of the leading players in the rise of sharing economy startups, built on the idea of everyday consumers leveraging their own resources — in this case, rooms in their homes, or the whole home itself — in a wider marketplace. That marketplace is powered by Airbnb’s tech, which makes it very fast and easy for hosts to list, and visitors to find, book and pay for a room or home.
Airbnb is currently active in 34,000 cities in 190 countries. It has over 1 million listings on its platform and has racked up 30 million nights booked.
Airbnb has lately been taking its expansion into a higher gear: a deal cut last year with Concur is evidence of how it is tapping into the corporate travel market; and it also announced a partnership with Deutsche Telekom earlier this week.
The corporate market will potentially mean much higher margins, while the carrier deals will be one more play for gaining more critical mass, particularly among mobile users: it will be the first time that Airbnb has worked with a carrier to preload its app on millions of Android devices.
But its growth has not been without hiccups. Like Uber, Airbnb has faced a lot of backlash from the business that it’s disrupting — in Airbnb’s case, the hotel industry. Regulators have raised questions about the legality of private individuals renting out rooms, and the question of whether these are getting taxed adequately. Some of these, such as in its home town of SF, have been settled, while others, such as the ongoing case in New York, continue to simmer.
The company has also seen a fair amount of controversy and concern over property damaged during Airbnb stays. Here, too, it’s trying to address the problems: In November the company rolled out a $1 million liability insurance program for hosts.
To date, Airbnb has disclosed raising close to $800 million, but as with fellow sharing-economy juggernaut Uber, the company’s rapid growth is leading to a lot of investors knocking on Airbnb’s door. In April 2014, the company raised $450 million at a $10 billion valuation led by TPG. In October, the company did a secondary round of $50 million at a $13 billion valuation (this was reported by the WSJ at the time; and we can confirm that was correct).
Deutsche Telekom — German telecom giant and T-Mobile’s parent company — has announced a deal with Airbnb that will see the peer-to-peer property rental app preinstalled on Android devices in 13 European markets.
Airbnb will be installed on Deutsche Telekom devices in Albania, Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia.
Customers will also receive 30 euros ($35) worth of credit to spend on accommodation — but only if they register with Airbnb through Deutsche Telekom. This suggests that existing users won’t be entitled to the reward.
Airbnb has confirmed to VentureBeat that this new pan-European deal is a first for Airbnb with a mobile carrier anywhere in the world, and is a major legitimization of a service that has come under pressure from local authorities in many markets.
The crux of the problem has been that Airbnb hosts traditionally haven’t been subjected to the same taxes as official guesthouses or hotels. While many cities, including Amsterdam, already technically imposed levies on Airbnb hosts, the responsibility had fallen on the property owner to pay authorities themselves. In the U.S., San Francisco and Portland were among the first cities to force Airbnb to collect taxes at source, while in Europe Amsterdam was the first destination where Airbnb played the role of “tax collector.”
This deal is notable for another reason too. Back in 2012, Deutsche Telekom made a “multi-million dollar” investment in German startup 9flats, which is basically a local competitor to Airbnb. With this news announced today, it’s clear that Airbnb has managed to corner many markets around the world, including Europe.
“Airbnb is a pioneer and trailblazer in the sharing economy — the concept perfectly reflects our brand promise, ‘Life is for sharing’,” explained Niek-Jan van Damme, board member of Deutsche Telekom, in a press release.
With mobiles playing an increasingly pivotal role in ecommerce and the so-called “sharing economy,” this is a significant step for Airbnb. This also follows the news from December, which saw Uber preinstalled on Android phones subscribed to the Sprint network in the U.S.
This all feeds into a bigger trend we’re seeing from a myriad of tech companies — striking deals with mobile networks to have their apps preinstalled is the easiest way of gaining mind-share. It’s a tactic employed by companies such as Spotify and Dropbox, so there’s no reason why it shouldn’t work with the likes of Airbnb too. We can likely expect to see the San Francisco-based company reveal similar partnerships in other territories around the world in the coming year.
Deutsche Telekom customers in the aforementioned 13 countries can expect to see Airbnb preinstalled on their handsets from this spring.
Greece has requested a loan extension from its international creditors just days ahead of the end of its current bailout deal. That moves the country a step closer to staying in the Eurozone, but it’s not a done deal yet. CCTV’s Guy Henderson filed this report from Berlin.
The ongoing debt crisis in Europe has had upsides for its stronger economies like Germany for example with its tourism industry booming. There were times when New York City was the hippest place on Earth, but now many are saying it is. A city at its peak.
“The prices are going up but it’s still pretty cheap compared to other cities. And as long as it is affordable for young people to come here and have a nice weekend and party, I think it’s gonna stay pretty well hip – huh!” said DJ Mitja, a local entertainer.
A record 75 million foreign visitors came to Germany in 2014 according to National Tourist Board figures.
If Europeans once flocked to the U.S. for cheap shopping sprees, maybe now it will be the other way around.
“We came here just to travel, we’re studying in Rome for this semester and it’s definitely cheaper than America because, you know, the euro’s crashing. It’s comparable in some ways but particularly food is a lot cheaper here,” said American tourist Devon Bateman.
The German government is now concerned about this because last year it introduced a cap on annual increases in rental properties, but market forces may level things out eventually.
Some people say reviews are all biased, only the really pleased or really upset comment, right? Then other reviews have become their own art form; I’m looking at you, Tuscan Whole Milk, 1 Gallon, 128 fl. oz. Whether you like reviews or not, I for one am grateful we’re in a world where it’s easy to read about other people’s experiences before you buy.
A week ago my wife and I were planning a trip across Florida to see my mother. Rather than arrive late, we decided to get a hotel and head over early in the morning. My wife assigned me to find the hotel, easy enough right?
Google maps and TripAdvisor gave me a wide selection and lo, there were plenty of really inexpensive ones, perfect if we were just arriving late and leaving early. I tried independent places first because I’ve had great experiences with them in the past.
The first reviews:
- „Roaches all over.“
- „Most disgusting ever.“
- „The drugs and prostitutes kept me up all night.“
I move a ways down the road, Googling a new place. A news article pops up first:
- „Police raid arrests 25 from motel.“
Further yet down the road?
- „Killers, killers, do not stay here.“
I email the wife: we may need to move to a big chain. She agrees.
I find a chain I’ve stayed at before with good results:
- „I took pictures of all the bedbugs and immediately threw my suitcase in the dumpster outside.“
Let’s try another chain:
- „The pimp chased me down the hall trying to recruit me while my husband was at the registration desk.“
- „The staff are very unprofessional, they rented my husband and I a room and re-rented the same room to someone else. On top of that the person they rented the room to went through our bags and had on my underwear and camisole.“
I email the wife. Her reply? „Wearing her underwear? SPEND MORE.“
Now I find a hotel right near the ocean that’s double the price of the first ones. Plus, it’s „Your #1 gay destination.“ Extra bonus, since we’re a queer couple.
- „The night I got here, my dog was taken from my (locked) room, and I have yet to find her.“
- „First room was flooded with sewage, they said don’t worry, it’ll dry up.“
It’s not over yet:
- „Our 2nd room seemed okay until I lied in the bed and felt something bite me. I pulled back the sheets and the bed was full of fire ants.“
Wait for it:
- „Shards of glass in my breakfast.“
Enter AirBnB: we rented a nice apartment in the artsy gay part of town. We told our host we were arriving late and she said don’t worry, she’d leave the key in the door. „It’s that kind of neighborhood,“ she wrote. And to our surprise, it was. We had a lovely night’s sleep. We got it all for less than the cost of one fire ant and to top it off, we were the only ones who wore our clothes.
Thank you all so much for leaving those reviews.