Remember when Airbnb felt like an option for cash-strapped travelers who might not be able to afford the amenities of a hotel room? Those days are a faint glimmer in the hospitality industry’s rearview mirror — and soon enough, they’ll disappear altogether. Last week, Airbnb announced three partnerships with some of the biggest names in travel management: American Express Global Business Travel, BCD Travel and Carlson Wagonlit Travel. With these three major players in corporate travel onboard, employees at a wide range of companies will now have easy access to making reservations on Airbnb.
Some of those professionals are already keeping Airbnb hosts busy. According to a recent article in The Economist, data from Certify shows that global Airbnb business travel bookings soared by 249 percent in 2015. Airbnb says business travelers now comprise 10 percent of its bookings, and it’s clear that they are positioning their offering to continue to fuel that growth. The company unveiled new reservation tools for executive assistants and travel managers at its OpenAir conference in June.
All these moves carry serious long-term implications for the convention industry. For employees who enjoy the Airbnb experience during a traditional business trip, it seems likely they’ll consider the same accommodations during a meeting or conference. For meeting professionals, they’ll need to determine how to use Airbnb nights to communicate the true value of their event to a host destination. And for hotel partners who rely on revenue from business travelers, the rise in Airbnb’s appeal seems to pose a potential threat that has been largely overlooked. Business professionals want the amenities and convenience of a typical hotel, the conventional voices have said for the past few years. And there’s no way for Airbnb to replicate that experience.
It’s true that Airbnb won’t be able to replicate the feel of a hotel stay, but all of the company’s hard work in the business travel segment indicates that its leaders believe they can offer an equally compelling, if not even more memorable, experience. What does that mean for the future of hotel rates and convention housing blocks? Time will tell. For now, click here to check out the early stages of the company’s work with the meetings industry.