Hawaii Agents: How Airbnb Is Impacting Business

Honolulu, Hawaii // Photo by Freeimages.com/Jenny W.

At the upcoming 2015 Hawaii Tourism Conference in Honolulu"Alternative Accommodations: Specialty Resorts and Vacation Rentals," will offer insight into the growing demand for alternative accommodations, the unique challenges for these properties, and their role in Hawaii's lodging industry. 

With the panel less than a week away, Travel Agent decided to ask some Hawaii specialists about the negative impact, if any, that affordable accomodations, namely Airbnb, are having on an agent's commission. 

"So far there has been very little impact from Airbnb in Hawaii," says Andrey Zakharenko of Always Travel in San Francisco. "One of the reasons for this is the variety of existing accommodations and the price difference between the different accommodations. On the islands, you can find a villa, a condo or a hotel room, with prices ranging from $100 per night to thousands per night. This means that most people can find the accommodation that fits their needs and budget.


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"To compare this to San Francisco, such variety in accommodation and price does not exist and Airbnb is very popular," Zakharenko continues. "Most people go to Hawaii to relax and recharge, be by the beach and treat yourself. This means that location, views, amenities are important and those are best addressed by the existing accommodation options and are harder for Airbnb to address."

Sharon Strelzer of Travel Made Special in Fairfield, CT, instead points to the advantages an agent has over Airbnb. Strelzer argues that Airbnb cannot compete with an agent's personal service and expertise.  

"When booking Hawaii, honeymooners, families and multigenerational groups can trust that their travel advisor will have their best and safest interest at heart," she says. "While discussing my clients' needs, I discern their interests and needs and pinpoint resort properties and boutique hotels that best suit their wishes. While Airbnb is a factor in the marketplace, I think clients value the knowledge a travel consultant brings to the table that Airbnb cannot. My clients for instance, received personalized travel plans complete with suggested activities and restaurants to try and I serve as their concierge for pre-travel as well."

The panel of experts for this session includes David Owens, regional head of public policy at Airbnb; LJ Bates III, executive director of Kalani Honua, a non-profit educational retreat center and eco-community on Hawaii Island; Daniel Monck, president of the Hawaii Association of Vacation Rental Managers and owner of Exclusive Getaways and Abbey Vacation Rentals; and Richard Holtzman, vice president and managing director of Montage Kapalua Bay, an all-suite residential accommodation on Maui.

"Airbnb is not a threat to my business," says Heather Christopher of Classic Travel at Tackett's Mill in Woodbridge, VA. "There's a style or type of vacation for everyone and that's why travel advisors aren't dead yet. I have a client who is starting the "Travel Leaders of Tomorrow" program and planned most of her honeymoon around Airbnbs throughout Italy. We worked together for the entire itinerary and I encouraged her to run with that niche when she graduates. It's a great opportunity to work with Millennial clients who will gladly pay a fee for your expertise and experience in using Airbnb, but want that type of accommodation experience and budget."

Registration for the conference is available through Tuesday, August 25. Sign up for "Alternative Accommodations: Specialty Resorts and Vacation Rentals" Concurrent Session 2 on August 27. The two-day industry event will offer attendees a variety of informative presentations, discussions and networking opportunities. There are a few slots remaining and appointments will be confirmed on a first-come, first-serve basis, so agents can register now by clicking here.

Visit www.hawaiitourismauthority.org

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