Airbnb: How Being Decentralized is Shaking Up the World of Travel

We recently posted about the role Uber is playing in shaping taxi companies and how this is affecting marketing. Consumer-sourced cab companies are not the only players in this new age of decentralized businesses. In the world of hospitality, Airbnb is giving traditional hotel chains a new challenge. The service is giving individuals the chance to cash in on their unused rooms or properties.

Like Uber, Airbnb takes a common resource and allows people to monetize this common resource. With virtually zero labor costs, the company and its hosts can offer competitive options for visitors–especially those who are looking for a more authentic stay in a new place. Often, Airbnb hosts live in the same apartment as their guests, adding their valuable local knowledge to the stay.

Just like a hotel concierge can influence a guest’s choices to the benefit of local businesses, the host could find themselves in a position where they might profit from their local experiences and recommendations.

So who’s going to be plastering their rental room with corporate logos?

Like Uber, Airbnb prohibits advertising other products to consumers during their stay, but the criteria are not well-defined. Hosts could have recommendation deals with local cafés, restaurants or shops without it looking like marketing. Unlike Uber, Airbnb has a good reason not to let hosts blatantly advertise: they have created their own neighborhood-centric recommendations.

In select cities, Airbnb now offers neighborhood guides that highlight local businesses including “local lounges.” The guides give guests a deeper look at where they’ll be staying and some suggestions as to where to spend their time. The guides don’t look like marketing, but they are expanding the reach of the establishments they include.

What does this mean for traditional hotels? First, they’re going to be facing even tougher competition for leisure travelers. With more variations in rates, more options and a more personalized experience, Airbnb seems like a cost-effective option for short-term travelers not tied to rewards accounts.

But what about groups? Hotels traditionally do a great deal of their business booking large group stays or events that fill hotel ballrooms, convention centers near by or city wide events. Airbnb continues to look to grow its ability to offer large venue spaces for visitors.


For instance, a castle might sound like the ideal place for a snazzy business event. Yet, one drawback to the decentralized nature of Airbnb is, well, decentralization. Airbnb locations are everywhere but some, especially larger ones, tend to be less central to urban centers, which can be an inconvenience to guests looking to be involved with a large event or conference.

Stepping back from the details and drawbacks, the big picture of the decentralized economy is that it is slowly becoming a piece of our everyday lives. Where we once relied on larger companies and organizations for car rides and rooms to stay in, people now have the option to go for singular and unique experiences in how they travel and where they stay.

All of these changes mean that it’s an uncertain time for marketing strategy. Larger organizations and companies must continue to bridge the gaps between traditional, social, and independent media and prepare for even more changes.