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For anyone who’s ever had to wrangle a payment from a friend for a trip, this new Airbnb payments feature is a very welcome early holiday present.

It looks as though Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky is making good on his holiday requests last year for product launch ideas.

Airbnb has debuted split payments for group travel globally, making it easier for people traveling with friends, family or business associates to share the cost of their Airbnb accommodation.

The desire for this type of payments feature has been a long-standing one. When Chesky asked people, via Twitter, for their best ideas on products Airbnb could launch in 2017, group payments were one of the most-requested launches.

Airbnb’s February acquisition of Tilt, a startup that enables peer-to-peer payments like rival Venmo, helped along the launch.

It’s a feature that certainly has beneficial implications for small group leisure and business travel.

Tilt stopped operating as its own business on June 12, and has now been integrated into Airbnb. Tilt was known especially for its ability to handle cross-currency payments, making its payment technology especially attractive to a company like Airbnb, which has home listings in more than 191 countries.

How It Works

Here’s how it works: When a trip organizer requests to book a listing for his/her group, that reservation is placed in an “awaiting payment” state where the organizer’s portion of the booking is charged on his/her credit card, and the host’s calendar is blocked out for that booking. An organizer can hold the reservation for up to 72 hours, giving his/her group time to log onto Airbnb, and pay their respective parts of the booking.

This means that trip organizers no longer have to pay for the entire cost of the trip up front when they book on Airbnb. The feature applies to groups of up to 16 people.

Prior to launching group payments globally, Airbnb tested the feature with more than 80,000 groups in nearly 175 countries, using more than 44 currencies. During the pilot period, 30 percent of booked reservations also led to one or more new users on the Airbnb platform, Airbnb said. Presumably some group members of groups had to create an Airbnb profile to be able to pay for their portions of the trip.

Insights About Group Travel

In developing this new payment feature, Airbnb conducted a consumer survey of 2,000 U.S. adults to learn more about how travelers approach group travel and the payments associated with them. DKC Analytics conducted the online survey from November 15 to 17.

The survey found that 79 percent of U.S. travelers have been on multiple group trips in the last five years, and 43 percent have lost $1,000 or more because travel companions didn’t pay their share.  The survey estimated that the cumulative losses of American travelers are highest for those ages 45 to 54 years old; 47 percent reported losing $1,000 or more and 12 percent reported losing $5,000 or more in group trip repayments.

Of those who have taken 10 or more group trips in the past five years, 18 percent said they have lost $10,000 or more. Twenty-nine percent of respondents said they have fought with a friend over group trip repayments.

This new feature could bode well for small group business travel, too. According to Airbnb’s survey, almost two-thirds of respondents ranked children and coworkers as the least likely to pay them back for a group trip (34 percent and 31 percent, respectively).

The top five destinations where respondents are traveling or booking group trips from were Paris, New York, London, Buenos Aires, and Los Angeles. In terms of where people are going in groups, the top five cities were Paris, New York, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, and London.

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Tags: airbnb, corporate travel, group travel, startups

Photo credit: Airbnb just launched a global split payments feature for group travel. Pictured are travelers who used Airbnb August 17, 2017. Airbnb

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