by Vincent Alonzo | June 06, 2018
Airbnb isn't the threat it once was to the hotel industry, according to the CEOs on a panel at the 40th annual NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference. Who are the new bullies threatening to eat the hospitality industry's lunch? Digital intermediaries like Google and Amazon are the disrupters keeping them up at night now. Airbnb is, say the executives, just another hotel company. 

"Airbnb has entered its second generation of development. It's got dedicated units now in addition to people sharing their homes," said Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson. "They've got the same challenges we have. They're trying to create a stickier digital platform to keep Google and other intermediaries from stealing their customer just like we are."

Unlike the skirmish with Airbnb during its first generation of development, Sorenson said the battle with the intermediaries is going to be a long-term war for who owns the customer.

Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta agreed, stating: "Digital disruption is the biggest challenge we're facing. We're all hospitality companies, not technology companies, but we need to connect our products and our service strategies to digital platforms to create a better customer experience."

The data the hospitality industry has on its guests is the key component in winning the fight, according to Accor Hotels CEO Sebastien Bazin. "Google, Amazon, and even Airbnb have never met the guest, and they don't want to meet the client," he said. "We need to take advantage of that moment of interface, it is a very valuable commodity."

Leveraging data to create a superior experience is an important part of the equation said Sorenson. 

"These other platforms are not creating an experience at all, but they are delivering value and convenience," he said. "But they're not without weakness. They often deliver not what the customer wants, but what a sponsor is paying them to offer. We can fight that with loyalty programs and knowing what our customer wants and delivering it."