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Social Networking Sites: Stealth Competitors for Hotels?
By Vijay Dandapani.
Tuesday, 26th August 2008
 
AirBed & Breakfast, a sort of social networking site, has a tagline that says "forget hotels" and "stay with a local when traveling". The website is simple yet robust provided one's choice of destinations (273 cities in 35 countries) has locals willing to "host" out-of-towners in their homes.

The website handles payments as well via credit cards and payal. AirBed collects the money after the "host" has accepted the reservation and holds the money until the stay is completed. Reservations can be canceled for a full refund upto 24 hours before arrival. The advantages to prospective travelers looking for a bargain and company are obvious.

Many of the "posters" are those that live in the heart of the metropolitan area and therefore, afford all the locational advantages of regular hotels. However, the cons, if less obvious, are there. They include no certainty of the type of person whose abode travelers end up with or vice versa and a lack of independent reviews of the "guest room" on offer.

While it social networking sites such as these are unlikely to be a "stealth" threat to the lodging industry, it certainly is one more "unregulated" competitor attacking the industry at the fringes. It is also unclear and unlikely that users at both ends are in compliance with any regulations that may apply in the jurisdictions they "operate" in. It is, perhaps, a matter of time, before municipalities take a look at their options, if any, on this new kind of internet commerce. Regardless, competition, if fairly defined and legal, can only be welcome as it serves to keep existing players honest.

Vijay is Chief Operating Officer and part-founder of Apple Core Hotels- a chain of 5 midtown Manhattan hotels offering value and comfort in the heart of the city.Member of the board of Directors - Hotel Association of New York. www.vijaydandapani.com

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