Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

Hotels are having an identity crisis.

As technology wreaks havoc throughout society, and as Millennials decide their parents' lifestyle just isn't for them, hotels are tearing out their hair, wondering what on earth people want anymore.

Yes, they're just like parents.

The glib answer is that many hotel customers want Airbnb, because it's usually cheaper.

Another answer is already evident in the way that hotels keep redesigning rooms in order to accommodate new realities.

As The New York Times reports, minibars are disappearing. Who wants to pay $15 for a tiny bottle of whiskey?

More than that, however, hotels have been experimenting with removing desks and closets.

Is this merely money-saving? Not quite. It seems that business trips have become shorter. Many travelers don't even bother to unpack. (Guilty, m'lud.)

As for desks, some hotels started turning their reception areas into workspaces for the startuppy, bearded types to congregate and share stories of apps that no one will ever want.

Sadly, though, times move quickly. Those startuppy types soon may tire of hotels that look just like their offices. Even Mark Zuckerberg has learned that privacy can be a good thing.

Hotels, then, are left to furiously experiment. This is hard, as moving things in and out--and designing for temporary whims--is very time-consuming and always risks being just a little too late.

I confess that, for the longest time, I valued hotels for their little touches: the service, the cleanliness, the fact that I didn't have to make my own bed.

I had a mediocre Airbnb experience that made me even more committed to hotels.

Now, however, I'm on a long trip in which I'm exclusively trying out Airbnb establishments. And, given that most are one-third the price of hotels, Airbnb is doing very well.

Increasingly, I'm seeing Airbnbs that look just like the pictures. Which, please admit it, is not the case with, say, online dating.

The hosts have been utterly outstanding. I'm currently on the third Airbnb of my trip in two different European countries. (Thank you, Henrik, thank you Ana and Vitor, thank you, Antonio.)

For me, it will now be much harder to consider hotels again at all.

I never thought this would be the case. It's as if more and more Airbnb hosts have become aware of their customers' needs. They can react more quickly to those needs. Because they have just one apartment--in some cases, a couple more--to look after.

A hotel can have tens or hundreds of rooms--and guests with so many different demands.

I fear that hotels may go the same way as airlines. They'll take a lot out of the rooms in the hope that you won't notice the room itself is smaller. That way, they'll try to make more money per square foot.

The Times writes of boutique hotel group Moxy, which hangs furniture on hooks on the wall. That way, you choose how your room looks.

Stephani Robson, a senior lecturer at the Hotel School at Cornell University's SC Johnson College of Business offered the Times her view of the hotel business.

"Confusion is a good word to use right now," she said. "What I think is going to happen is, there will become a different brand for every niche, and you'll become loyal to the brand that gives you what you want, like coffee, a closet, and a desk if you're a business traveler."

But how long will that take? And how much work and investment must be put in, only for trends to change yet again? Niches are notoriously hard to hold onto.

Meanwhile, many travelers will adopt more Airbnbs and make personal contact with their owners. They can ask for drinks to be put in their room beforehand. After all, every Airbnb I've been in has had a fridge.

Then again, if there's a hotel that specializes in English-accented, American-passported, Polish-heritaged strange people, I'll happily give it a try.

Published on: May 24, 2017