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Airbnb has rapidly become central to the world of corporate travel, a major feat in an industry that is often resistant to change.
The startup’s business travel platform, Airbnb for Work, released a new global search feature Monday, allowing users to filter results based on whether they are traveling for business or leisure. By selecting the work trip toggle, users see listings that are most relevant to corporate travel. Relevant listings have gotten good reviews from other business travelers, have amenities like Wi-Fi and easy check-in, and have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Besides making booking quicker, this helps ensure minimum quality and safety standards, something that is especially important for event planners, as well as companies managing their own travel.
“If they continue to go across that search experience, they’ll have the ability to break that down into further categories, such as hotels or entire homes, and get to the right listing a lot easier,” said David Holyoke, head of Airbnb for Work.
This is just the latest update among many, as Airbnb continues to develop its tools for companies and individual business travelers. Airbnb for Work launched in 2014, and now over 500,000 companies use it for travel. It offers centralized billing tools, notes for expensing purposes, and company administration dashboards, as well as options to book meeting spaces and team-building experiences.
The startup acquired HotelTonight in March, further increasing its reach to business travelers. Stays under three nights are the fastest-growing segment for the homesharing company, according to Holyoke.
Reaching the Events Industry
Although Airbnb has increasingly become a go-to option for work travel, not every sector has caught on. In particular, event planners tend to stick with traditional hotel room blocks when it comes to event housing.
In the past, Airbnb for Work has made attempts to crack into the event industry, including releasing a tool for meeting planners and group travelers and acquiring event space booking tool Gaest, but the impact has been small. In part, this may be because third-party meeting planners are unable to negotiate discounts with Airbnb, and they do not get commissions on rooms booked like they would with traditional hotels.
One major concern for event planners, however, is making sure the listings meet certain quality and safety standards. In the past, this has been difficult to do, and hotels have often been a safer option. While not perfect, Airbnb for Work’s new business trip filter can provide planners with a degree of reassurance when suggesting listings as an alternative to room blocks.
“For the event industry it’s time to look outside the box,” said Mohamad Al Sadoon, marketing director at Stay22, a startup that has partnered with Airbnb to provide event companies with room booking features. “Not many people want to stay in room blocks anymore.”
Hotel room blocks serve the needs of some travelers, but they can be inflexible, he explained. When the block gets sold out, planners either have to make another deal with a different hotel last-minute or make attendees go through the extra steps of booking a room on their own. If the events company makes a second deal with a hotel that is farther away, meeting planners then have to organize shuttle services for attendees.
Moreover, business travelers are increasingly looking for unconventional experiences when booking work trips, opting to stay in rooms that provide a better opportunity to explore the city.
With Airbnb becoming more of an established platform for business travel, it will become more difficult for events companies to ignore it, Al Sadoon said, adding that he figured the industry would start to shift within the next 16 to 18 months.
“I think it’s their fear of change. I think that’s typically what keeps most industries stuck. Innovation is not easy to embrace.”
Meanwhile Airbnb for Work plans to continue developing tools to narrow search results for business travelers and make the experience more customizable.
“We’ll continue to gather that information and insights so that we prioritize the right features, and make it more personalized and more relevant,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re surfacing the right type of listings based on the length of stay, how far they’re booking out, how often they’ve booked with us.”