Tourists aren’t the only people looking for a home from home to stay in when they’re out of town. Increasingly, business travellers are looking for safe, secure and spacious places to stay while they’re abroad on business. Corporate Housing is the traditional term used to describe this extended stay accommodation. Once it was hotels, now increasingly this housing takes the form of serviced apartments. But is the new “sharing economy” adding a new interloper to the industry?
The floating house that’s been spotted on London’s River Thames has certainly attracted the eye. But the new property looks set to make even more waves. An Airbnb stunt, the floating house represents the firm’s aggressive marketing tactics as it tries to strengthen its reputation in London. Airbnb now has 23,000 properties in the capital, ranging from shared rooms to private rooms to whole apartments.
One thing in the company’s favour has been a relaxation in the legislation to do with private owners renting out a room or second property in London’s prime locations. Designed explicitly to boost the sharing economy the legal change removes a Section 25 clause which demanded planning permission for any residential premise offering temporary sleeping accommodation for fewer than 90 consecutive nights in London.
It’s unlikely the 73% growth Airbnb has enjoyed in the capital was motivated by the shift in the law (after all, London residents opened up their homes during the Olympic Games in 2012) but it signifies a growing political clout for the company.
In the US, Airbnb is growing further. The company is developing software making it easier for property managers to link their properties to the portal. Browsers and those looking for accommodation would be able to find a much wider range of apartments and rooms available, and not simply from homeowners. It’s likely to only be a matter of time before Airbnb develops the same approach in the UK.
What will that mean for the traditional hospitality sector and corporate housing providers? Hotels have been critical against Airbnb alleging a lack of legal responsibility that those advertising their rooms and apartments on the site have to adhere to, compared with the investment a hotel has to make. Fire doors, emergency lighting, insurance in case someone falls down the stairs, music and alcohol licensing; there are more expenses a hotel has to adhere to before it even opens its doors compared with a private homeowner renting a room on Airbnb (although the company does point to it security and safety regulations for those listing spaces.)
The uneasiness of hotels against a new form of competition makes sense, especially in terms of health and safety and regulation; if both are to be seen on an equal footing then there needs to be equality of regulation, surely? This said today due diligence is a buzz word, with global and international companies investing heavily to ensure employees are safe when travelling away on business. Established London serviced apartment providers like Clarendon offer not only a greater degree of flexibility, central locations and more space but also the peace of mind and reassurance that buildings and apartments have been assessed and meet all UK statutory regulations. Inevitably the sharing economy models will affect traditional setups and business travel is very much a target sector on their radar, however for the time being there is seemingly some way to go.