The AirBnB phenomenon was not a completely ground breaking concept. The concept of staying at a guesthouse and kipping in a spare room has been around for for centuries. The Pubs and Inns of the 1600’s often had a room for weary (and drunk) passers by to rest their tired souls in exchange for a shilling or two.

What AirBnB has done so well is use technology to make it easier for this to happen in advance of a stay and allow those who have not thought about renting out a spare room or making a little extra cash, to do so.

The slogan they use of “ Live Like a Local” is something that I really like and something that I certainly did when I backpacked through south east Asia. I stayed in a lot of guesthouses which not only made me feel at home, but also gave me an authentic experience that i talk about to this day.

If you look at my home city London, there are over 20000 beds available to rent on AirBnB and although it is a threat in many ways to the hotel and hostel sector in regards increased stock, I think it has led to a new positive shift for other hospitality businesses.

For me living like a local doesn’t mean just your accommodation…
It means the full experience. For me this starts with food (I am a food lover after all). Back in 2003, in the first guesthouse I stayed in , in Hanoi, the first thing I did was sit with the mother of the household, and have a cup of tea and a bowl of freshly cooked Pho. Amazing… and experience I still talk about to this day.

Fast forward to 2016, and you look at the boom in street food, food markets and pop-up restaurants in London and you can see the shift in food culture which in turn creates a new form of tourism where people want to eat, drink and sleep like a local! The full “Living like a local” experience.

I found an awesome BBQ joint when on a business trip to De Moines, Iowa (Called Jethrows in case your interested, 8 types of BBQ sauce, amazing Ribs & featured on Man Vs Food!) by going on Facebook and using the “Near Me” functionality and could see great ratings by people who I didn’t know but were probably “locals” . I in theory asked the local crowd where was good to go and that answer was delivered to me.

Those restaurants and food outlets that are aware of the shift in travelers demands, and are active in their restaurant marketing , must be finding a new wave of different tourists (not always from abroad!) that find their local venue through the web, word of mouth, social media or food bloggers insights. Restaurants and other foodie places offering unique and authentic experiences, alongside quality service and food, will be a success in my opinion.

I think there is an opportunity for more strategic thinking between the likes of AirBnB and gastronomic outlets in regards encouraging the “eat like a local opportunities” to their customers rather than traveler being lured into the big branded places.

I think the opportunity is there for smaller restaurant operators to really fly, as long as they make themselves accessible through simple marketing and provide consistently authentic experiences to their customers to make them feel like a local, whether they are or not.

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Posted by Jordi Pera

Jordi Pera is an economist passionate about tourism, strategy, marketing, sustainability, business modelling and open innovation. He has international experience in marketing, intelligence research, strategy planning, business model innovation and lecturing, having developed most of his career in the tourism industry. Jordi is keen on tackling innovation and strategy challenges that require imagination, entail thoughtful analysis and are to be solved with creative solutions.

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