Airbnb, the app that helps travellers find low cost accommodation, is branching into business travel.
Since 2008, Airbnb has hosted a service that allows home and apartment owners to rent out rooms for short periods of time, effectively becoming short-term hostels for travelers. Traditionally, the app was focused at travellers on a budget, however today the website launched a new business travel section suggesting that it would like to expand its reach.
According to Chip Conley, Airbnb’s head of global hospitality, “Nearly 10 percent of Airbnb’s customers travel for business already.”
“We’ve heard from customers that this type of offering is high on their wish list,” he said.
Airbnb has added a new section to its website, which is tailored specifically for business travellers, however this is not the first attempt it has made to attract a more corporate audience. It has already formed partnerships with Evernote, Lyft and Salesforce, which have all integrated Airbnb into their corporate travel booking systems.
The company has teamed up with Concur – a website that manages expenses and travel booking. Through the partnership, travelers can book Airbnb accommodation via Concur’s smartphone app or website. Expenses for the bookings will automatically appear in Concur’s expense account management software.
Airbnb has a presence in over 200 countries and hopes that its business arm will appeal to travellers who tire of staying in large hotel chains.
The initiative is a large undertaking for the rental-sharing company, squarely taking on giants in the hospitality industry like Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide and the Wyndham Hotel Group.
The move into the sector could attract more scrutiny from regulators and government officials, which have grown increasingly interested in whether Airbnb’s rental-sharing customers are breaking the law. In May, the New York State attorney general’s office won a case in which Airbnb was required to hand over anonymous data on a host of its users.
In April, Airbnb closed a $450 million round of venture financing, valuing the start-up at $10 billion. The company has raised nearly $750 million to date.