Airbnb Revamps Business Travel Program

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From a luxury penthouse in Tokyo to a modern loft in Amsterdam – bike included – the number of places for business travelers to stay during corporate trips continues to grow. And, Airbnb is making it easier for corporate travelers to avoid stuffy hotel rooms and opt for alternative spaces like these while traveling for work. This week, the hospitality company announced the global expansion of its Business Travel program, adding a number of tools to the suite to increase visibility into employees' travel plans and spending.

Since Airbnb’s Business Travel program launched in July 2014, it has seen 700% growth and now has more than 250 companies as customers, including big names like Google and Facebook. Currently about 10% of all rentals on Airbnb are used by business customers. Other data show business travelers enjoy Airbnb rentals more than hotel rooms and tend to stay longer in the rentals compared with hotels.

Company Background

Airbnb is almost absurdly well-funded, closing in on $1.5 billion as recently as June 28, 2015. The California-based company, located at new offices at super-hip 888 Brannan St. in San Francisco, is essentially a marketplace and technology platform for listing, finding, booking and paying for rentals of apartments and other short- to long-term lodging around the world.

It's in a lucrative market, too. Business travel spending in the US alone reached $292 billion last year. As that figure continues to rise – some estimates say it will reach $302.7 billion by the end of 2015 – Airbnb is hoping to grab more of the market. The new global expansion of the Business Travel suite offers a central dashboard where travel managers can track employee itineraries and financial data. Other tools included in the suite are:

  • An “Activity Tab” where companies can catalog current and future work trips and travel data like locations, the number of people traveling and dates of travel.
  • A “Reporting Tab” allowing companies to collect and manage booking reports for the entire business, as well as export financial data.
  • An “Employees Tab” where managers can approve employee travel plans with Airbnb.

Bloomberg reported the revamped Business Travel program is in response to corporate customers asking for a “more robust way” to manage employee travel plans and expenses. Mike Lewis, a product manager for business travel at Airbnb, told Bloomberg the program historically has been a “super manual process.” The recent upgrades to its business suite could help Airbnb grab more corporate customers.

“Corporate travel is a big part of the travel pie; it's worth a lot of money,” Nathan Blecharczyk, chief technology officer and co-founder of Airbnb, told Bloomberg. “We're further along there on our leisure side than our business side.”

What Makes Airbnb Attractive for Business Travelers?

We think quite a bit:

  • The company’s inventory of rental properties is far more valuable to corporate travellers compared with its main competitors VRBO and Homeaway. Airbnb is highly centered on major cities, while other main companies in the space are focused on resort and vacation properties.
  • The company has also built its business model on “paid-on-paid” as opposed to the “yellow pages” or classified ads model of other firms. In other words, it is attractive to list a property free of charge and only pay when a deal is closed.
  • For corporate travelers, the company’s offering isn’t as “duty of care” bullet-proof as the major hotel chains, since the individual proprietors behind the properties aren’t as well-funded or professionally managed.
  • The Airbnb price points make the offering quite attractive, with savings perhaps exceeding $100 per night in major cities. For longer stays, say for consultants on month-long assignments or other project-based resources, the cost advantage becomes substantial. And since the properties are inherently full-featured with kitchen, washer and dryer and the like, they also accommodate long-term stays more economically than a typical hotel can.

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