Hotels harness technology and design to stave off Airbnb

Friday 17 November 2017

Technology will be a key weapon in hotels’ armoury as they try to fight off challenges from Airbnb and Brexit-affected jobs problems.

That was one of the points to emerge from London’s Hotel Sector – responding to change breakfast talk this morning at NLA.

Conference chair and Aukett Swanke associate architect Nick de Klerk said that Brexit was affecting the hospitality industry and hotels are finding out more about the customer in a bid to create the best experiences for their customers.

But hoteliers are already experiencing cost of labour issues with EU nationals leaving, said PwC head of hospitality and leisure research Liz Hall, and growth in the sector in 2018 is not forecast to match that of 2017 given an uncertain trading backdrop. Nevertheless, a record 4m visitors came to the UK in July, attracted by the weak pound. ‘It’s a growth story, but it’s starting to slow down’, she said.

The hotel experience will have to adapt to the rapid growth of the sharing economy with 4 million listings on Airbnb, said Perkins + Will director of hospitality Tom Hupe, equivalent to the capacity of the top five hotel companies combined. There has been a shift from ‘demographics to psychographics’, he said, and hotels should focus on elements including hospitality, personalisation, experience and wellness, even ‘a return to selling sleep as a product’.

The conference also heard from Whitbread Property’s manager central London Jonathan Langdon, whose firm is building a new hotel approximately every 10 days, focusing on its new Hub brand providing amenities including an app that lets the user book rooms, control lighting and explore the local area in AR. Gensler’s Nicola Law took the audience through her practice’s explorations in designing hotel experiences for those who wouldn’t stay in a hotel – the ‘Expeditionists’. And finally Marcus Boret, founding director of Marick Real estate, described the benefits in terms of time, reduced waste and sustainability in adopting modern methods of construction. ‘It’s here to stay’, he said, ‘but you have to get involved early and it’s a very steep learning curve’.

David Taylor, Editor, New London Quarterly 

#NLAHotels

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