Ask anyone and the chances are either they or someone they know will have stayed in an Airbnb property but, as data has revealed, the main barrier to entry is simply those who have not heard of Airbnb. 

It is forecast that we will soon see more business travellers too jumping on the Airbnb bandwagon. 

So is this all about cheap rooms?  The answers seem to be that price is a factor but not the only consideration. 

People now wish for a more authentic experience and are embracing the option of staying in a real home rather than a faceless branded hotel.  So there is a definite shift in attitude.  At the recent annual hotel conference in Manchester, James Bland (director of brand experts BDRC) revealed that Airbnb now ranks as the seventh most recognisable hotel brand in the UK - behind brands such as Hilton, Ibis but ahead of brands like Sofitel and Mercure.

Despite all of these changes, for hoteliers it is a different story.  Some are clearly in denial claiming that Airbnb will not impact on their business. Others somehow reach the conclusion that Airbnb will somehow complement it, as seen by Accor’s purchase of OneFineStay. 

But elsewhere the main response has been to criticise Airbnb, and call for harsher legislation and regulation by government in terms of taxation of the owners, increased health and safety and security requirements and overall consumer protection.  The problem is that London appears to adopt a light touch as a result of the relaxation of short let requirements which came in before the 2012 Olympics. 

Brexit hotels

It is true there have been some recent cases where flat owners have been successfully forced to stop letting out their properties as Airbnb providers.  No doubt there will be many more cases where freeholders or neighbours litigate against owners attempting to let in this way. 

But up until now, have any hoteliers actually thought about the opportunities that the growing Airbnb market presents?  It would seem not, until now, where a forward thinking Hotel GM has decided to pioneer a new initiative where the hotel actually works together with Airbnb. We advised on the hotel on this initiative.

So how does this work?  The hotel provides cleaning, front of house and maintenance services but is careful to offer these services on flexible terms and in a way that minimizes its own liability.  Being involved in this collaboration between a hotel owner and an Airbnb provider underlies our overall support for the sharing economy and development of the hotel industry in this way.   

Stephen Marks, partner in commercial property at Trowers & Hamlins