Business travellers swap stuffy hotels for first-class Airbnbs

By Oliver Smith 27 February 2017

Already over 10% of Airbnb's bookings are for business.

Business travel is no fun. From the long-haul flights to stuffy air-conditioned hotel rooms, there’s really nothing glamorous about living out of a suitcase.

But have you ever thought about ditching the Hilton and trying Airbnb for your next trip?

It might sound farfetched, but the idea’s already taking off. Weary business travellers, sick of stuffy hotel rooms, are turning to Airbnb in their droves, and today business travel accounts for a whopping 10% of all Airbnb trips.

Using the service for business isn’t a new idea. Back in 2015 Airbnb unveiled Airbnb for Business, its first foray into the corporate travel market – a global market of trips, conferences, meetings which is worth more than $1.2 trillion.

Now over 150,000 companies use Airbnb to book their business trips, and the company’s EMEA head of business travel told The Memo he expects this soaring growth to continue.

Not only that, we learned that Airbnb has approached one of the world’s largest travel marketplaces with a view to further expand its business offering.

Going business class

But what exactly is Airbnb for Business?

Essentially it’s the same Airbnb you know and love – cool and quirky places for a fraction of the price of hotel rooms – but with a few tweaks to better fit the needs of business travellers attending conferences, meetings, or hosting team offsites.

Hosts who are renting whole houses or apartments can apply to be certified ‘Business Travel Ready’ by Airbnb, which comes with extra requirements like free wifi, laptop-friendly workspaces and 24 hour check-in.

“Since the launch of Airbnb for Business, the reaction from the industry has been impressive and positive as business travellers respond to a more personalised and flexible travel option, staying in local neighbourhoods without compromising on home comforts,” Jonathan Liebtag, Airbnb’s EMEA head of business travel told The Memo.

In 2016, Liebtag says, Airbnb for Business tripled in size with nearly 14,000 new companies signing up every week and now there are over 150,000 companies from around the world using the service.

“We expect this trend to continue as we enhance the platform and target new audiences.”

Business trips booked through Airbnb also tend to be cheaper than hotel rooms, one study found businesses saved about 30% vs traditional hotel rooms by going with Airbnb.

For huge global corporations booking thousands of trips every year, that 30% could be worth millions.

Booming business

One of the reasons Airbnb for Business has grown so fast is that Airbnb partnered with three of the world’s largest travel management groups which businesses use to arrange their business trips.

With just a few clicks hundreds of thousands of companies that were previously restricted to booking rooms in big hotel chains were given the freedom to choose from thousands of business-ready Airbnb listings around the world.

And this is just the start.

Airbnb has now had conversations with one of the world’s largest travel marketplaces, Sabre Travel Network, which operates the very marketplace which travel management companies use to book flights and hotel rooms.

“We’ve had conversations with Airbnb, and we think there’s an opportunity to help them get further into the business and corporate travel market,” Wade Jones, senior vice president for marketing and strategy at Sabre, told The Memo.

“Their business model is very different to ours, but we want to have as much ‘content’ in our network as we can.”

If successful such a deal could put Airbnb listings on the radar of millions of businesses around the world, and take yet another chunk out of hotels which have controlled this $1.2 trillion market until now.

The ends of hotels?

All of this certainly won’t be music to the ears of hotel chains, which have already been battling back against Airbnb in the leisure market.

For now hotels still have an advantage over Airbnb in the business market.

Hotels are more used to looking after business travellers, they also boast cleaning, turndown services, food and a concierge, all of which Airbnb will struggle to replicate.

But with savvy business travellers demanding their companies book Airbnbs for them, those advantages might not protect the hotel industry for much longer.

We’ll have to wait and see what happens, but for now travellers are abandoning hotels and flocking to Airbnb in their droves, in both the worlds of business and leisure.