Airbnb is teaching people how to shop for lodging and what services to expect in a democratized environment that creates comfort with a very uncomfortable concept (sleeping in a stranger’s home). Adding traditional hotel inventory into this process will be simple and is a logical extension of their service offering just as Amazon was able to extend their offering to more and more adjacent categories in rapid fashion over their 20 year history.
It is no longer a question of whether hotel rooms will be sold on this new channel – it is a question of who will be first. Independent hotels, seeking more affordable sources of demand and alternatives to high-cost, low-margin OTAs, will begin testing the channel within the next few months. Smaller chains should follow soon after. It is predicted that within 18 months, one of the major chains will announce a partnership that includes listing significant inventory for sale on the site. While this will not drive any new long-term share gains for hotels, the first movers will be able to capitalize on travelers who are intrigued by what they’ve heard about the core Airbnb service but simply can’t pull the trigger – fleeing to the safety of the tried and true bed-bath-TV combo of a traditional hotel room.