Airbnb’s advance into business travel gets stronger this week as American Express Global Business Travel, BCD Travel, and Carlson Wagonlit Travel will integrate Airbnb for Business into their platforms and allow employees and travel managers to book stays with Airbnb.
Business travelers or travel managers will be able to book stays directly through Airbnb and travel managers will also be able to track and expense their employees’ bookings, similar to how they already track hotel bookings.
That integration lets reservation details for each business trip be automatically shared with travel management companies, allowing travel managers to access that data in real-time through expense reporting platforms and travelers to view their booking details in their corporate itineraries and on their mobile devices, which wasn’t possible before if they booked through Airbnb. This integration will go live in the U.S. this summer and expand to other countries later this year.
American Express Global Business Travel isn’t the first travel management company to partner with Airbnb as Concur, for example, began letting business travelers book Airbnb rentals through its TripLink service in July 2014, pre Airbnb for Business. But Global Business Travel’s size certainly points to more companies becoming comfortable with bringing Airbnb into their managed travel programs and also Airbnb’s business travel ambitions.
Airbnb Vs. Hotel
The average business trip booked on Airbnb is six days, said Lex Bayer, Airbnb’s head of global payments and business travel.
“It’s not a game about either choosing a hotel or Airbnb,” said Bayer. “It’s about finding the right accommodation for the right trip. Hotels are very well-suited for the one- to three-day trip. If you’re going to stay in a city for a consulting project for over a week Airbnb is perhaps a better option.”
And while Bayer’s point has validity, Wes Bergstrom, vice president of American Express Global Business Travel’s global supplier relations, said “the jury is still out in terms of how this will impact companies’ travel programs” and whether more companies will opt-in.
“We see this agreement as complimentary to other content we’re sourcing for our travelers today. We’ve seen many of our business travelers using Airbnb but there are many business travelers out there that are very loyal to hotels but for those who want other options that is what this agreement is about.”
Last month Airbnb began letting business travelers book on behalf of fellow employees for employees going on the same trip, for example, “this helps integrate Airbnb into traditional travel programs and make it easier for Airbnb to fit into regular processes,” said Bayer.
Airbnb rolled out Business Travel Ready for hosts late last year that’s aimed at educating hosts about business travelers’ needs and ensuring their listings have essential business travel amenities such as Wi-Fi, 24-hour check-in and smoke and Carbon monoxide detectors. That program now has “tens of thousands of listings,” according to Bayer. “This is still very strong with the millennial demographic but we’ve seen business travelers of all ages staying with us.”
Business travelers using Airbnb have booked stays in 172 countries and companies using Airbnb for Business represent 150 countries. To date, about 50,000 companies have used Airbnb for Business and 10 percent of all travel booked through Airbnb is business travel.