Skift Take

Airbnb's move to offer more meetings spaces represents an example of one of Skift's 2019 Megatrends, as many giant online booking companies are looking for their next phases of growth by expanding into new areas.

Short-term rental booking giant Airbnb has acquired a small booking site,
Gaest, that helps business people book off-site spaces for meetings and events.

The companies didn’t disclose the terms of the deal.

Gaest, which offers meeting spaces for rentals by the hour or day, was founded in 2015 in Aarhus, Denmark and has disclosed $3.5 million in fundraising.

Airbnb said in a statement that it intended to preserve the brand name and the separate platform in the near term.

“The deal certainly underlines the rapidly growing interest in the automation of meeting venue discovery and bookings,” said Ciaran Delaney, CEO and founder of Dublin-based MeetingsBooker, arguably the largest online listing and discovery service for event spaces, with more than 125,000 hotel and alternative meeting space providers worldwide and with backing by Delta Ventures and ACT Venture Capital.

Other startups also aim to help companies rent out nontraditional spaces, such as urban lofts, gazebo, or basements as special premises for companies that. A handful are trying to address the need for a place for a workshop, photoshoot, or something else.

Other players include Breather, which offers “hundreds of spaces” across 10 cities including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and London.

“Experts predict that 30 percent or more of all urban office space, including meeting spaces, will be delivered as-a-service within the next 5-10 years, and Airbnb’s recent acquisition is a reflection of this large addressable opportunity,” said Bryan Murphy, CEO of Breather, which offers meeting spaces by the hour, day, or week as well as month-to-month office space.

“A major global player and disrupter like Airbnb
entering the market will help to further accelerate adoption across the sector both for hotels and alternative spaces,” said Delaney. “Meeting and event spaces is the last part of business travel to be made bookable online, and we feel within three years 80 percent of the market will be online.”

Airbnb’s move represents an example of one of Skift’s 2019 Megatrends, as giant online booking sites are looking for their next phases of growth by expanding into new areas, such as the estimated $400 billion a year small meetings market.

Last April, Airbnb debuted a tool for meeting planners and group travelers to show Airbnb properties near an event and launched the new brand Airbnb for Events.

In September, Airbnb for Work, a collection of tools for companies to manage their spending and track where their travelers are, added more meetings and events booking tools to its platform. For example, it began curating appropriate home listings as spaces ready for meetings outside global city centers.

The company has also pursued a partnership with co-working giant WeWork to make it easier for Airbnb customers to buy a day pass to a workspace near where they are staying in a host’s home or apartment.

Airbnb President of Homes Greg Greeley pushed for the acquisition. It’s 11 months since Greeley, an 18-year Amazon veteran who helped create the wildly popular Amazon Prime membership program, joined the tech giant. (Greely spoke last September at Skift Global Forum New York. See the transcript here.)

Breather’s likely sky-high valuation expectations, based on having disclosed about $122 million in funding, may have pointed Airbnb to the cheaper Gaest.

Airbnb’s latest acquisition raises the tantalizing question of whether Airbnb will realize its potential to be a meetings disruptor.

Update: Story was updated to include quotes from the CEOs of MeetingsBooker and Breater.

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Tags: airbnb, m&a, meetings, meetings and events, meetingsiq, mergers, mice

Photo credit: An example of a meetings space bookable through Gaest, a startup that Airbnb acquired on Friday. Gaest

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