Sonder has been misunderstood by some. It offers both short-term rental and traditional hotel lodging, and it has mostly appealed to leisure travelers, not business people, so far. The startup's outreach to business travelers could change all that.
Sonder, which offers travel lodging through a mix of traditional hotels and short-term rentals in apartment buildings, wants to appeal more to business travelers. The San Francisco-based startup announced on Wednesday that it is partnering with a number of travel management companies such as Expedia Group’s Egencia and TripActions to make its inventory more readily available to business travelers.
The move comes shortly ahead of the annual request-for-proposal (RFP) process that corporations often follow to plan upcoming business travel as a rebound in in-person meetings is expected in the U.S. It also is yet another sign that so-called alternative accommodation by travel startups is going mainstream in the pandemic era. The move also comes after Sonder reached a merger agreement with blank check company Gores Metropoulos II with a plan to go public later this year with a $2.2 billion valuation.
Sonder also has signed deals to make its content available on at least one global distribution system.
UPDATE: The startup said it’s distributing rates and inventory to Amadeus, Sabre, and Travelport (Galileo/Worldspan) through a third-party distribution partner.
Before the pandemic, 80 percent of Sonder’s guests were leisure travelers, according to its most recent investor pitch deck. The company has kept its leisure tilt in the past year, despite a perception in some quarters of the travel industry that the brand aimed itself at business travelers.
The startup’s portfolio of properties is in densely urban areas, and many of its units offer square footage for working and not just having a place to sleep. In theory, its properties should appeal to road warriors.
Sonder does have some quirks that need to be dealt with. Not every property is set up with desks or tables, and many middle-aged business travelers aren’t going to want to work on a laptop on a couch or bed for an extended period of time. Sonder properties that are licensed as short-term rentals often need guests to provide identification in advance of their stay to comply with building or local regulations. The process of uploading a photo of a driver’s license or other identification card adds a layer of complexity that a traditional hotel stay typically lacks.
When Skift asked about this, Kristen Richter, Sonder’s vice president of sales, answered: “Guests must fill out an account profile and complete a three-step authentication process. In order to confirm the traveler’s identity, we require ID verification through our app — just like traditional hotels do at the front desk.”
It remained clear how the handoff happens between a corporate booking via a corporate booking tool or agent via a travel management company to an individual traveler being prompted to download an app and complete the verification process. Corporate travelers may be confused or annoyed if they show up for a stay but can’t check in because they have to download an app first.
Richter also offered this commentary:
“Similar to other companies that book through the GDS, Sonder follows all booking, modification, and cancellation policies as outlined in our agreements with TMCs, booking partners, and accounts. Sonder’s Central Guest Services (CGS) team can take care of all changes, unless the corporate guest must modify their booking through their corporate provider — per the agreement with the partner. Our CGS, Sales, and City Teams are equipped and ready to support all of our guests, including business travelers.”
Make of that what you will.
Sonder’s interest in the corporate travel segment comes at a time of increasing dynamism in the segment. Last week, Daydream Apartments rebranded itself as Sentral and made the 3,000 apartments it manages in seven U.S. markets including Los Angeles and Seattle bookable for any length of stay, between one night or several years. Sentral’s 10 buildings are owned by Iconiq Capital, an investment firm.
Earlier this year, Skift reported that “UK serviced apartment provider STAY and U.S.-based Mint House are both getting into corporate subscription programs.”
UPDATED: Article has been updated to specify the company’s distribution partners.
Tags: corporate housing, corporate travel, corporate travel management, gds. global distribution systems, global distribution systems, hotels, short-term rentals, sonder, startups, travel management companies
Photo credit: A one-bedroom apartment in Chicago that Sonder manages and markets. Sonder, a tech-led travel lodging company, is targeting business travelers through deals with Egencia and TripActions, among other partners. Sonder