IHIF 2020 In Conversation With: Katherine Doggrell, Editor-in-Chief, IHIF

IHIF General Session

1. In recent years, we have watched the ascent of non-traditional hotel options such as Airbnb. Can traditional hotels and these disrupters exist side-by-side?

The hotel sector has been very fortunate in recent years as the number of people travelling has swollen beyond what anyone could have imagined, year after year. At the start of this year the UN World Tourism Organisation reported that 1.5 billion international tourist arrivals were recorded globally last year, up 4% on 2018, with growth predicted of between 3% and 4% for this year.

In a market like this, it’s easier to survive when competitors appear and, at the moment, there is rooms for both to exist together. It is only in the face of a downturn - whether economic or driven by the current flu crisis in China - when the real impact of Airbnb can be tested.

2. What makes up Airbnb? Is it simply people opening up their homes, or is it made up of professional investors?

The awful thing for those trying to compete with Airbnb is that no-one knows. There are moves by a number of jurisdictions, such as Edinburgh, to bring in registration, which will help reveal locations, but the listing alone cannot tell. Airbnb has said that it will reveal professional hosts, but as yet it’s not clear what form this will take. All eyes are on the group’s IPO, where we look forward to getting a look under the hood and seeing what Airbnb is really made of. 

3. What have hotels learned from Airbnb and how can they remain relevant in the 21st century?

Hotels have learned - or relearned - what service really is and how to treat guests as though they are valued and not just a name being processed through reception. They have learned how to create interesting hotels which appeal to guests and not just investors and, as they appreciate this can set them apart, will hopefully take these innovations further.

4. In the age of the sharing economy, therefore, what does the future hold for the hotel industry?

The hotel industry is likely to expand into other areas than just a room with a bed in, as it offers customers what they want: flexible accommodation, flexible payment, great service no matter what the price point. The future is bright for hotels which can achieve that, but is likely to be less so for the tired mid-market brands.

5. Finally, what are you most looking forward to at IHIF?

Checking Out was inspired by late-night chats in the bar at IHIF and I look forward to the event being a further source of inspiration this year. It always is.

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Catch Katherine moderate the Global CEOs Panel: Re-Defining Hotel Performance on Day Two at IHIF 2020 and on the IHIF News Desk onsite. Purchase a copy of Katherine's new book Checking Out here.

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