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Topic 5 Align with Collaborative Consumption attractive features

The previous topic illustrates how traditional tourism players can integrate the emerging and growing CC model as an opportunity to create value. The analysis of CC principles and (current) advantages compared to the traditional sector should open our eyes to how the latter needs to evolve and adapt its offer to align with the attractive features of CC which make its growing success. Indeed, while for instance staying in a hotel is never going to be the same as living with or like locals, hotels can still deliver unique, local and personalised experiences Innovative and efficient design strategies need to be implemented to attract the modern price-sensitive and especially in-search-of-experience traveller and thereby align with CC.

In that perspective, strategies for traditional actors can be outlined based on lessons learnt from the success of CC practices:

1. Facilitate social interactions and connections

The modern tourist is social, so should be the traditional tourism industry. Travellers are attracted by CC offers because they want to create connections with local people, culture and other tourists. Tourism actors need to incorporate this new trend in their offerings.

Tour operators need to focus on the personalisation of their packages, while offering social activities and unique experiences to travellers in search of flexibility before and during their holidays. In parallel, hotels need to go beyond the sole focus on the guest room and consider a complete experience package for their guests. In that perspective, developing and giving unrestricted access to common areas and/ or the hotel lobby is an important strategy as this is where guests can socialise. Making it a welcoming and fun place for all, guests as much as non-guests, especially locals, should be encouraged to hang out in the lobby. Building a shared workspace or a bar into the lobby, inviting local musical acts to play or organising local art exhibitions and meet-ups in the lobby (or guiding tourists to that kind of events) are some strategies that can be easily incorporated in the offering to stand out by giving tourists the opportunity to interact and make conversations with locals and other guests.

Another way for the traditional tourism industry to increase social and authentic dimensions of tourists’ experience is to partner with sharing start-ups which allow residents in a destination to act as tour guides or offer authentic experiences to tourists. For instance, tourists can be guided to CC partners such as Thuisafgehaald in the Netherlands or Bienvenue à ma table in France which are platforms through which local inhabitants can invite people, including tourists, into their home to share a meal.

Source:Antenna – Unsplash

2. Enable flexibility and convenience

One key element justifying the growing attractivity of CC practices in the tourism industry is the flexibility compared to traditional actors. Tourists require to feel comfortable and this implies a minimum degree of convenience. Strategies can include the development of an application or a digital booking system to flexibly check-in and request services, being pet-friendly, offering connecting rooms for one price or rooms equipped with kitchens.

Furthermore, tourists do not like to be bound or limited, for instance by strict breakfast or check-in timings, or compulsory services. Incumbents actors need to work on providing a greater flexibility to consumers, allowing them to be provided with everything they need without extra costs associated to unwanted services. A strategy is to shift from bindingly full-service offers to on-demand services. In the accommodation sector, incumbent actors might rethink their offer by reducing the number of included services and proposing more efficient rooms while improving and emphasizing common areas. That way, a lower price is proposed to the guest who is also more flexible. For instance, a hotel might include a floor of cheaper rooms at which there is no housekeeping.

A case study is the Moxy hotels which offer small affordable rooms and provides a full meal self-service and microwave ovens at any time instead of having a restaurant.

3. Be human and genuine

While technology is at the foundation of CC, a key characteristic of the concept is its strengthening of social ties and human connection through the sharing of goods and products. The same observation can be made in the tourism sector: technology can help enhance customer experience (easy booking, communication, guests’ feedbacks, etc.) and reduce costs. However, incumbent actors need to fight the facelessness dimension of technology, to keep in mind that the human face behind the technology is very important to the modern tourist. This means going back to the basics: offering an attentive, human and personalised service, including a genuine interaction, to the customer from before (organisation, planning and booking) to after the trip (feedback, reviews, etc.)

In the accommodation sector, as Airbnb hosts are less and less present when guests arrive to the accommodation because they do not live in it, hotels might use the human factor as a leverage to offer a human and genuine experience to their guests. Simple strategies include sending a more personalised welcome letter than an automated confirmation email at the booking stage, to ensure the presence of a check-in agent and a helpful concierge, etc. Staff training is essential at a time where most tourists have access to all online information: front office teams and/ or reception desks should become local social concierges equipped with local knowledge in order to help tourists get the experience they seek by making recommendations on local events, activities, accommodations, restaurants, etc.

General strategies for an improved genuineness also involves making promotional information more personal and transparent, for instance avoiding photoshopped images.  Research by Mody and Hanks show that tourism brands perceived as authentic and genuine increase their brand loyalty.

Source: True Agency – Unsplash