Having stolen a march on the hotel space, Airbnb is now finding new opportunities in business travel.
By connecting individual property owners and leisure travelers, Airbnb has disrupted the hotel and holiday lets business, forever changing the travel landscape and prompting lawmakers to work on frameworks that accommodate this model. With that now looking increasingly in hand, it has sights set on the business travel space. The initial target – business travelers from smaller firms who are choosing Airbnb in place of hotels to save money, in the first instance, but for a growing number of reasons.
Enter Airbnb Business Travel, which provides company friendly features that make reservations more compatible with the needs of companies. For today’s business traveler, many of whom want business travel to mirror leisure travel, the new service makes it easier to find and book appropriate listings and expense it to their employers. For employers, Airbnb also provides tools for corporate travel managers that makes itineraries clearly visible, houses all financial data in one place and offers a centralised billing system.
Airbnb launched Business Travel in 2014 based on feedback from customers. At the time, nearly 10% of were already using it for business. Today over a thousand companies have signed up, ranging from startups to Fortune 1000 companies like Google. Airbnb has found that business travelers are especially interested in larger homes, sometimes to take family members when combining work and pleasure and sometimes for offsite team meetings. The average stay is six to eight days, suggesting that it doesn’t replace the quick one-night business hotel stay.
Some within the hotel industry are not entirely happy with the trend towards shared-economy alternatives. At the American Hotel & Lodging Association, senior VP Vanessa Sinders raises widespread concerns about creating a level playing field.
“Our members thrive in a highly competitive business but there are some players in the short-term rental market who are effectively running illegal hotels,” says Sinders. Her argument is that guests’ safety might be compromised, the character of residential areas endangered and taxes avoided.
Hotels step up to the plate
But some hotel chains are reacting in a different way.