Opinions: 

Travel Tech

The success of Airbnb has seen the company founded in 2008 grow into a major global brand. Airbnb offers website listings for people to list, find, and rent lodging, and has already compiled over 1,500,000 listings in 34,000 cities and 190 countries. Part of the so-called sharing economy, Airbnb is particularly being fastened onto by young people, who have a more flexible approach to renting accommodation.

Airbnb for Business

As Airbnb continues to expand its business model, the company is moving into new ventures. One of recent niches that Airbnb has established is its Airbnb for Business program. This enables business people from all over the world to choose from unique places to stay, provided by local hosts. This scheme has already spread into over 190 nations worldwide.

With Airbnb beginning to focus more on corporate clients, the company has recently signed 500 new companies up to this scheme. This significant tranche of new clients was established within just 24 hours of launching its new global travel management suite. In total, Airbnb has now managed to attract more than 1,000 businesses from over 35 countries across the world. Thus, Airbnb has become a major part of corporate travel programs across several continents.

Not only has Airbnb been successful in terms of attracting quantity of companies, but it has also been able to boast prestigious clients among its new customers. Amongst the new raft of companies that have signed up to the Airbnb service are some of the biggest Fortune 1,000 companies on the planet, most notably Google. The software, technology and search engine giant is allowing employees to benefit from Airbnb's wide range of accommodation.

When speaking about the reasons for signing up for the new Airbnb service, companies have particularly emphasised the flexible nature of the service. Airbnb’s new Business Travel product suite enables companies to build close working relationships by sharing accommodations in a casual and friendly environment. There is a real feeling among the companies that have signed up for this particular service that Airbnb is making it easier for business users to work on the go.

Strong Corporate Response

Indeed, Airbnb itself has stated that the response of the corporate community to its new Business Travel program has in fact considerably exceeded its expectations. Marc McCabe, Business Travel Lead at Airbnb, pointed out that the average business travel stay on Airbnb is already nearly seven days. This illustrates that customers of the corporation are increasingly seeking a mix of business and pleasure, and often adding weekends to existing trips in order to explore destinations.

Airbnb for Business is an initiative that can play a major role in assisting companies of all sizes in catering to the diverse travel needs of employees. The program enables business travellers to book Airbnb accommodation directly, with expenses being automatically build back to employers.

In addition, Airbnb has also added some tools to the overall program in order to make it as convenient as possible for both travellers and businesses. Thus, the company has recently introduced a suite of travel management features, which provide customers of the company with full visibility into employee travel itineraries and financial reporting data. There is also a sophisticated centralised billing system included, which ensures that the business travel experience is enhanced for those regularly away from the office, and also that companies can track and understand the relationship that they have with travelling employees more holistically.

Airbnb is an example of a company that has massively benefited from the increase in the sharing economy. The company was recently valued at over $10 billion, and has already achieved revenue in excess of $250 million per annum. Airbnb achieved a figure of over 10 million stays on its website last year, and continues to rapidly expand the listings available through its service. This has led to speculation that Airbnb will usurp the InterContinental Hotels Group and Hilton Worldwide as the world’s largest hotel chain in due course.

Cultural Impact

As this sharing company continues to expand, the founders of Airbnb have been praised for tenacity and creativity by some of the most prestigious business publications on the planet. Aside from its massive financial success, the company has also had a significant cultural impact. For example, in July 2010, Airbnb received over 300 e-mails from homeowners being foreclosed on who were able to retain their houses owing to their continued ability to sublet rooms in the residences through the Airbnb software.

While ownership still remains a central part of the economic system, and indeed the travel industry, the potential for more shared ownership projects in the foreseeable future is certainly massive. The dam has emphatically broken in terms of shared ownership, with companies such as Airbnb proving that this new economic model can be hugely successful.

Travel-related digital marketers should be aware of the value of companies such as Airbnb for both their employees and potential customers, but also keep abreast of other important sharing economy companies, and possible gaps in the sharing economy niche. Although Airbnb is the most prominent example of the sharing economy, there are many other significance enterprises also competing in this niche, providing a wide variety of different services. Making the most of these will be hugely profitable for travel-related businesses and destinations in the future, and new initiatives are always available for the creative-minded business.

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