This message has two purposes: a confession and a warning. The admission is that while I like points, I like “perfect” trips more. The warning is that more and more often, at least for my family, a perfect trip does not always end with a hotel.
It took a few years to get there, but I’ve reached a point where hotels are part of the search, but not “the” search for many places I go. It’s seismic and we’ll get there.
I love starting the year off with a getaway, and even though it’s only February, I’ve spent over $15,000 on hotels and accommodations so far this year. And no, I definitely won’t keep up that pace, but it’s not uncommon to see $25,000 in a year.
If I were a hotel chain loyalist, I’d be close to ambassador or high-level concierge status right now – just two months later – but instead I’ve barely earned any points. hotel and as very unpopular as it may be, I’m here to say it’s actually ok.
I don’t care, or care. Hotels have devalued their programs to inexplicable levels and I’m happy where I am. There’s a lot to digest, so let me explain…
I wish Airbnb had a loyalty program
The journey finally unlocks now.
Complicated testing requirements are diminishing in most of the world — in turn, the United States — and the success of vaccines and booster programs is giving people the confidence to reconnect. That’s wonderful.
That said, business travel isn’t like it used to be, and many people who travel do so for leisure. For me, trips are longer and more meaningful and have been used as a chance to easily connect with family or friends.
Traveling with a 2 year old, draconian hotel rules, and minor frustrations like the lack of meal prep facilities shifted a lot of my leisure spending to Airbnb. Search two adults and one child, you will see very different hotel prices. Add a third adult, and hopefully you’re running a big hedge fund.
I can get a house with a few bedrooms (and sometimes a pool) for the same price as a standard five-star hotel room in many cities. If I stay at hotels, I proactively work out negotiated rates for suite upgrades and that’s not even fun.
In the sunny areas that we prioritized during these weird times, it totally turned things around and frankly, I wish Airbnb had a loyalty program. It didn’t, and it didn’t matter, in large part, because traditional hotel chains made theirs so meaningless.
Marriott needs $20,000 in spend to reach Ambassador Elite level, which is among the most prestigious hotels in the world. Hyatt, Accor, IHG and Hilton require the same for their higher levels. Just two months out of the year, I would basically be there… if I was staying in hotels.
Based on metrics rather than ego (or reach), I’d easily be one of the most sought-after customers for any channel based on these spending numbers.
I would get a lot of so-called “benefits” when checking out these channels, and yes, some points too – but being faithful may mean not getting exactly what you want. Like a hotel on the other side of town.
I just didn’t want to do that.
I want a place that ticks all the boxes, and since Airbnb is more like hotels, with points of contact for all needs, and sometimes even a concierge who can help with little things like delivery, I started wonder how hotels will actually survive.
Is it the breakfast they (mostly) took away?
Is it the “service”, which asks for a tip at every touch point?
Is it the “facilities”, which somehow remain “closed” at many properties?
I just find that the lines are blurrier than before, and the trajectories are the opposite of what I expected to see. It’s not the hotels that are getting prettier, it’s the alternative accommodations.
Rather than reminding people why hotels are going crazy right now with OTT (over-the-top) service, hotels take every opportunity to reduce service and save money.
Loyalty programs also became more about hopes and dreams than guarantees, which caused people like me to turn to luxury travel agents, who could guarantee benefits by booking through the right channels, rather only by pledging allegiance.
Meanwhile, Airbnb entrepreneurs are taking an agile approach to hospitality in a once quirky home-sharing setup. In the places I stay there are many more hotels than many hotels.
I now expect hotel quality sheets and small amenities in my Airbnb, and Airbnb and other platforms did a great job to frame this approach. Where do these two trajectories intersect or balance each other?
Break down expenses
In the pre-pandemic, rise of Airbnb times, I spent most of my time in hotels. I had Airbnb in some cities or places where hotels were in the wrong part of town, or didn’t have the space and extras needed, but hotels were the majority.
Now wallets don’t lie, and I’ve spent three out of four dollars on Airbnb rather than hotels. I’d love to be recognized for this through an Airbnb loyalty program, but the reality is that I spend that money based on reach, access in a given city, and spaces on offer. It is not about late check out or breakfast.
Again, both hotels have wildly recovered for almost a decade now.
So help me, I’m part of a generation that is killing the hotel industry even if I don’t want to. I just want the best travel experience in any given city and more and more often overall it’s not with traditional hotels.
I have no ill will. In fact, I love a great hotel. I will be staying in one for a few nights this week, but unless things change more and more ‘global’ purchases will continue to be made on Airbnb and other accommodation options .
Now that Chase has made Airbnb a “Get Yourself Back” option and Capital One has a limited time $200 home-sharing credit with Venture X, I’ll be earning a lot of points and also taking advantage of the cards already in my wallet.