BridgeStreet is bringing homeshares and hostels to its platform in order to offer more variety to business travelers. The key will be finding success among travel managers by making it easier for them to book stays outside traditional extended stay hotels.
When extended stay booking provider BridgeStreet Global Hospitality relaunched its digital platform last year, the company became something of an outlier in the corporate travel space: a mini-online travel agency for business travel that also connected directly with travel managers around the world.
Today, with an update to its platform, BridgeStreet is bringing a wider variety of extended stay products to customers, baked into a consumer-like booking experience for travelers. Vacation rentals, hostels, and furnished homes are now available, as BridgeStreet has worked to add new content to its distribution network without sacrificing the security and service that business travelers need.
CEO Sean Worker said that the extended stay sector is set to undergo changes as travelers are more willing to stay in alternative accommodations. BridgeStreet has spent the last three years redesigning its platform with this more diverse future in mind. Booking should be instant, and the available content should diverse and varied to better meet the needs of potential buyers.
“We looked for inspiration from other places,” said Worker. “We set ourselves on a journey that said we had to be as good as Amazon in how Amazon Prime works. Then we said, as a marker, the kind of consistency of Marriott globally. Airbnb is a friend [too], so how do we present our product in a way that it’s easy for travel buyers of any type of product? The journey has to be easy for any business to easily book curated product and experiences that are geared to them as businesses.”
BridgeStreet now sells stays in more than 130 countries, with daily listings exceeding one million listings each day to more than 5,000 corporate clients. It also provides travelers with discounts on car rentals, local tours, meals through Blue Apron, and WeWork access when they arrive in-destination.
BridgeStreet partnered with Siteminder last year to bring more hotel properties onto its platform by streamlining things on the property level, but it will likely be the listings from the vacation rental and hostel sectors that provide the most differentiation in the marketplace.
“We have to be equally balanced in the thoughtfulness of the supply side as well as the demand side,” said Worker. “There is demand and pressure internally from businesses to deliver choice through a travel policy to effectively manage costs, but equally to ensure there is value to that employee who says, ‘I am going to work for company X because they allow me to stay in a wider range of product, integrate work and general life into that experience.’ Today that’s a selling feature. On the supply side, we’re spending so much effort to make sure we are a partner with them and they are not just a supplier or vendor.”
The Impact of Airbnb
The rise of Airbnb as a business travel option has shown that travelers want to stay in ways that are consistent with their usual lifestyle, and corporate travel booking platforms are catching up to demand. BridgeStreet operates its own branded serviced apartment properties as well but sees them as complementary to the other options on its platform.
“There is not one algorithm on any one of our platforms that puts BridgeStreet-branded properties front-and-center, period; that would betray the trust of the community,” said Worker.
For travel managers, the ability of BridgeStreet to connect to their global distribution system interface is important. It will also connect with whatever internal booking solution they use. This means that its listings with flow into the tools they already use, instead of travel managers having to deal with another complex channel.
For Worker, the challenge is encouraging corporate customers to use BridgeStreet more often; he likens it to viewing BridgeStreet content as suitable for frequent use instead of infrequently, like just when an employee absolutely needs an extended stay hotel.
“I don’t care if it is a $25 million company or a $30 billion a year company, travel managers are all time impoverished and under pressure from a financial standpoint to deliver more,” said Worker. “The problems we are solving is that they want to go to one environment, ideally, where all of this is available. This has to be available to them in their bespoke environment; we have very specialized instances for each company with their attributes and policies already built into their window. They can connect that into their travel platform so their compliance goes up. It has to be that you can buy what you need from one location.”
BridgeStreet is something of a veteran in the corporate travel space after 20 years, so it’s telling that the company has invested heavily in bringing additional options to the stagnant extended-stay sector.
As more established companies help new solutions move into the mainstream and provide more options to business travelers, the parochial thinking of the industry will slowly shift as well.
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Photo credit: Two people working in an apartment. Austin Distel / Unsplash