This post serves two purposes: a confession, and a warning. The confession is that as much as I love points, I love “perfect” trips more. The warning, is that more and more often, at least for my family, a perfect trip doesn’t always involve a hotel.
It’s taken a couple years to get there, but I’ve reached a point where hotels are a part of the search, but not “the” search for many places I go. That’s seismic and we’ll get there.
I love starting the year off with an escape, and even though its only February, I’ve spent more than $15,000 in hotels and accommodations so far this year. And no, I def won’t keep that pace up, but it’s not uncommon to see $25,000 in a year.
If I were a hotel chain loyalist, I’d be near top tier ambassador or concierge status right now — just two months in — but instead I’ve hardly earned any hotel points and as very unpopular as that may be, i’m here to say that’s actually ok.
I don’t mind, or care. Hotels 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
Travel is finally unlocking now.
Complicated testing requirements are dropping in most of the world — your turn, USA — and the success of vaccines and booster programs are giving people the confidence to reconnect. It’s wonderful.
With that said, business travel is not back as it was once before, and many people who are traveling are doing so for leisure. For me, trips are longer and more purposeful and have been used as a chance to connect with family or friends in an easy way.
Traveling with a 2 year old, draconian hotel rules and minor frustrations like a lack of food preparation facilities have shifted much of my leisure spend to Airbnb. Search for two adults and a child, you’ll see vastly different hotel prices. Add in a third adult, and let’s hope you run a large 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 in hotels, I’m proactively working on negotiated rates for suite upgrades and that’s not even fun.
In sunny areas we’ve prioritized during these odd times, it’s totally transformed things and frankly, I wish Airbnb had a loyalty program. It doesn’t, and it hasn’t mattered, in large part, because legacy hotel chains made theirs so meaningless.
Marriott requires $20K in spend to reach top tier Ambassador Elite, which is among the loftier hotel statuses in the world. Hyatt, Accor, IHG and Hilton require similar for their top levels. Just two months in the year, I’d basically be there… if I was staying in hotels.
Based on metrics, rather than egos (or reach), I’d easily be one of the most sought after customers for any chain based on these spend figures.
I’d have lots of so called “benefits” when checking into these chains, and yep, some points too — but being loyal can mean not getting exactly what you want. Like a hotel on the “other” side of town.
I just haven’t been willing to do this.
I want a place that ticks all the boxes, and as Airbnb’s become more like hotels, with points of contact for any needs, and sometimes even a concierge who can assist with little things like delivery, I’ve started to wonder how hotels will actually survive.
Is it the breakfast that they (largely) took away?
Is it the “service”, which requires a tip for every point of contact?
Is it the “facilities”, which somehow remain “closed” in many properties?
I’m just finding the lines more blurred than before, and the trajectories are the inverse of what I would’ve expected to see. It’s not hotels that are getting nicer, it’s alternative accommodations.
Airbnb’s are becoming more like hotels in everything but name, and hotels are sadly not actively seeking new ways to differentiate in most markets.
Rather than remind people why hotels are utterly uh-mazing right now with O-T-T (over-the-top) service, hotels are taking every chance to reduce service and save money.
Loyalty programs too became more hopes and dreams, than bolted on guarantees, which made people like me shift to luxury travel agents, who could guarantee benefits by booking through the right channels, rather than pledging allegiance.
Meanwhile, Airbnb entrepreneurs are taking a nimble hospitality approach to a once quirky house sharing setup. In the places I’m staying, it’s a lot more hotel than many hotels.
I now expect hotel quality linens and little amenities in my Airbnb’s, and Airbnb and other platforms have done an excellent job to curate this approach. Where do these two trajectories cross, or find equilibrium?
What’s Stopping Me?
As bad as this sounds already, there are only a few things stopping me from sending the wallet share further. A large one of those issues is “ROI”. There’s only so much time I’m willing to spend researching Airbnb’s and photos.
If not for the brand visibility of a great chain, like a Four Seasons, which makes a search simple and painless, I’d probably already be staying in more well curated Airbnb’s.
Breaking Down The Spend
In pre-pandemic, rise of Airbnb times, I spent most of my time in hotels. I’d Airbnb in certain cities or locales 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 every four dollars on Airbnb rather than hotels. I’d love recognition for that via an Airbnb loyalty program, but the reality is that I’m spending that money based on the reach, the access in any given city and the spaces on offer. It’s not about late check out, or breakfast.
Again, both of which hotels have savagely clawed back for near on a decade now.
So, help, I’m part of a generation that’s 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, on balance, it isn’t with traditional hotels.
I have no ill will. In fact, I f**king love a great hotel. I’ll stay in one for a couple nights this week, but unless things change, more and more “big picture” purchases will keep going to Airbnb and other lodging options.
Now that Chase has made Airbnb a “Pay Yourself Back” option, and Capital One has a limited time $200 home sharing credit with Venture X, I’ll earn plenty of points and get plenty of benefit from cards already in my wallet, too.