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Airbnb’s busiest night reveals its new secret weapon: business travel

Aug 10, 2012 11:00 am

Skift Take

Even business travelers are beginning to see value in controversial room-rental sites such as Airbnb, signaling what we already knew — that the lodging world is being transformed.

— Dennis Schaal

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It was a helluva busy Saturday night, August 4, for Airbnb, which saw its largest usage night in history — with 60,000 people staying in accommodations booked through the site.

The London Olympics contributed to the uptick, with 3,400 guests staying around the city, which was the most popular destination.

And, 60% of the 60,000 guests, or 36,000 people, were staying at Airbnb-booked rooms while on vacation.

Not a huge surprise there.

But, the number that raises eyebrows is that 4,100 people, or nearly 7%, used the unorthodox — until recently — apartment, condo, yurt and houseboat rental site to book an accommodation while traveling for work.

Business very casual

And, those 4,100 guests don’t even include the 150 people who stayed at an Airbnb accommodation for a job interview, which might also be classified as a work-related trip.

And, traveling for work, as the infographic below shows, was the largest category after vacations.

What does it all mean?

Not your mama’s hotel

The accommodations arena — and business travel, too — is changing.

Love Airbnb, 9flats/iStopover and HomeAway or hate them, but hotels are not the only accommodations option anymore, and even business travelers hot for a deal are open to giving the new stuff a try.

An Airbnb room rental or VRBO-found villa aren’t likely to appear on many General Electric or Bank of America travel and expense reports anytime soon, but independent business travelers — or unmanaged business travelers in corporate travel parlance — are evidently increasingly receptive to alternative accommodations sites.

Airbnb’s big night shows that.

Who are these road warriors?

Many of the people who use Airbnb for work are “early adopters,” including “remote workers, self-employed business people and contractors,” who may stay in a city for an extended period, an Airbnb spokesperson says.

You can think of them as using Airbnb for an extended-stay option.

In fact, the average reservation on Airbnb in general is for 4-5 nights, the spokesperson says.

And, many of the business travelers who used Airbnb on August 4, a Saturday night, were using it for a reservation for the weekend before or after their business trip, the spokeswoman says.

No, that isn’t typical road warrior behavior, if you look at it through yesterday’s lens, but it does reflect changing habits by a segment of business travelers who are willing to use an alternative lodging site such as Airbnb.

The following graphic depicts why people were traveling when staying at an Airbnb-booked accommodation on August 4:


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