Surface Magazine just republished this 2016 interview with Arne Sorenson. Sorenson was CEO of Marriott, but sadly passed away this week after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
One of the questions he was asked in the interview was about the rise of Airbnb. This is how he responded:
“It’s fascinating. I hope we’re not as exposed to this as the taxi industry is right now. Taxis in many cities are awful and hard to find. So here comes Uber with a better product. In the hotel business, I still think we can deliver better service, so we don’t have quite the same risk. Airbnb is fascinating. Increasingly, it’s less personal, and there are more dedicated units. The more they get into that space, they become a competitor. The story isn’t over, but we’re set up to compete well.“
Taxis were awful and that business model is done for good. But how do Sorenson’s comments about Airbnb hold up today?
Marriott ended up launching its own home sharing platform in 2019, but it’s comparatively small as I understand it. There are also no shortage of bull cases for Airbnb (and just look at its market cap).
But there are also headwinds. Barcelona, for example, is looking to permanently ban people from renting out private rooms on a short-term basis (< 30 days). This is even if the rest of the home remains owner occupied.
So what use cases remain? Only extended stays?
If I look at my own pre-pandemic travel record, I am largely in the hotel camp. I like the consistency and I like certain brands. But maybe that’s just me getting older. What do you all think? Leave a comment below.