Airbnb takes on corporate travel

Airbnb has completely transformed the consumer hospitality sector. Now the company is looking to do the same to the corporate travel world

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Airbnb is gearing up to increased demand for businesses to be able to use its services

Airbnb is one of the biggest names in the sharing economy, helping millions of people discover some of the most unique places the world has to offer. Its disruptive business model has made it a massive hit with consumers, but has naturally attracted a lot criticism from others in hospitality sector.

Travellers who first used Airbnb outside the workplace are increasingly requesting employers to use them for business trips. This has provided fertile ground for the company to expand its offering into the business travel market. European CEO spoke with Marc McCabe, Business Travel Lead at Airbnb, to find out how the company plans to make inroads into the corporate travel industry.

We want to improve the service and have it be more automated, more streamlined

What steps are you taking to make Airbnb appeal to the corporate and business market?
I think that the first step that we really took was to start working with travel managers to develop a solution that would make them more comfortable with Airbnb as a corporate offering. And I think that one of the things that we addressed was duty of care – being able to know where your employees are at any one time. We also helped to filter some of the properties that are more suitable for business travel.

So, we created a business search site that filters out some of the more eclectic properties, like treehouses and boats. It only shows entire homes and properties with Wi-Fi. This gives you an easier view of our properties from a corporate standpoint. And then we provide some dedicated services as well. And so, through this, these companies are able to offer a programme that fits better within their corporate structures.

What are the main reasons businesses are opting to use Airbnb’s service?
We see a mix and it really depends on the company. But I think one reason is because their employees are asking for it and they want to be able to offer it in a safe and secure way. The other main reason comes down to having access to greater inventory. I think travel managers have this issue from time to time during the year, and some deal with it year-round, but you know, there is less and less inventory available. It is becoming more expensive and to have this option increases your inventory pretty considerably, because we have millions of active properties globally now.

Could you tell us about your integration with travel management company Concur?
It is very exciting. Concur has been a wonderful partner to us. They have built this product called TripLink. The product is designed to deal with the issue of accommodation leakage that takes place in the business travel industry, which is that about 50 percent of all corporate travel and accommodation bookings end up falling outside of corporate travel systems. This is because employees want to save their company money, or it is just an option that they prefer, or the options in the corporate booking tool are not a good fit for what they need. And some of those bookings are coming to Airbnb as well, so what we decided to do is form this partnership with Concur. Travellers can connect their Airbnb and Concur accounts together and this gets all the itinerary data into Concur at the time of booking. That is really important because it solves two things for travel managers. One, it means that they actually know where the employee is at all times and they know it from the point of booking. Two, it is integrated into their existing systems, which makes the reporting piece that much more seamless for them. We import the receipts into the system for them too, so it even makes the expense process easier for the travel manager. We think that this provides a really strong solution for the market and really makes us a part of the travel management programme.

What should we expect to see from Airbnb’s corporate and business offering in the future?
Really we want to improve the service and have it be more automated, more streamlined. Once we can identify which of your travellers are travelling with Airbnb for business and when they are doing that, we can actually start to provide more features. This is very much the first step.