Since its creation in 2008, Airbnb has expanded its reach and product offerings. No longer simply a staple of accommodation for weekend breaks and family getaways, they now increasingly host business travelers and corporate retreats in their properties worldwide.
According to Bloomberg, 250 companies were signed up with Airbnb in 2015. Just three years later, that number had escalated to over 700,000. This increased uptake could partly be explained by the growing focus on engaging and retaining employees.
Managers are more willing to approve bleisure trips and allow corporate travelers to extend their stay into the weekend. Plus, bookings of alternative lodgings are on the rise for various reasons we will explore.
At TravelPerk, we are unique among travel booking tools for including Airbnb listing in our accommodation offerings. Our clients can book stays with Airbnb through our concierge service and receive real human support 24/7, 365 days a year.
However, while there are perks to be had through corporate Airbnb stays, there are limitations. So how do Airbnb listings stack up against traditional hotels? Are they really suitable for business travel and can they guarantee lodgings suitable for working teams?
We'll explore these questions and give you a glimpse of what companies think of using Airbnb for their business travel.
So let's dive in.
Airbnb takes aim at the corporate travel industry
Airbnb isn't shy about sharing how businesses and their employees benefit when using its service. In 2018 they rebranded their professional network as Airbnb for Work and started taking hard swings at the corporate travel market.
As a service, Airbnb is coming up with creative initiatives to get business travelers onboard. Still, it remains to be seen whether these are effective solutions to corporate travel challenges.
For example, unlike vacationers, business travelers don't want to spend time browsing the site for inspiration and discovery. They know when and where they're traveling, and they want a solution that's quick, convenient, and reliable. The Airbnb business travel ready site currently allows travelers to search by category, like boutique hotels and serviced apartments.
Sadly, after selecting their preferred accommodation type, users are taken through to pages of options that are far from suitable for business travelers. A Wigwam apartment might be fun for your holidays but is hardly an ideal setup for a work trip.
With the 'for work' filter, Airbnb has aimed to make it easier for corporate travelers to identify which homes are suitable. When you create an account with a work email address, you're automatically given the option to filter search results for properties vetted for business travel.
But while the Airbnb For Work search feature remains unreliable, business travelers waste considerable time sifting through listings to find their lodgings. This time could be saved and put to better use with the assistance of a reputable concierge service that can provide a range of solutions for your itinerary.
Other features are slightly more successful. One-click expensing, for example, caters to business travelers' frustration around reimbursement. Rather than booking on a personal card and being reimbursed by the company, travelers can bill their lodgings directly to the company.
This approach makes cash flow management easier for the employee, and in theory, makes payments easier for the company through a personalized dashboard. However, companies have to handle separate invoicing for accommodation, transport, etc.
The benefits of Airbnb for business travelers
Airbnb certainly has the edge when it comes to price. On average, Airbnb rentals cost up to 40% less than hotel stays and are decidedly cheaper for long-term itineraries. Many hosts offer reduced rates on bookings over a week in length and further discounts for monthly rentals.
This makes Airbnb perfect for relocators looking for somewhere to land while they suss out their new city and look for their own accommodation. A more competitive price also makes Airbnb rentals a good option for corporate travelers who wish to extend their trip and use some vacation without the hassle of swopping accommodation from pricier hotels.
Airbnb rentals often offer facilities that can be useful for business travelers, such as a washing machine or a kitchen. Doing their laundry or cooking for themselves can make longer business trips more cost-effective and comfortable for corporate travelers on a budget.
After two tumultuous years, businesses are keen to get employees together to strengthen team bonds and reconnect to shared company goals. Closely connected to employee engagement, now more than ever, organizations are feeling the pressure to deliver something remarkable for their company retreats and conferences.
Airbnb can cater to this by allowing companies to rent an entire home for their teams. With rooms set aside as workspaces or to break out for collaborative strategy sessions, the team can either be productive on-site or use the home as a base for the day's activities.
To further its appeal to business travelers, Airbnb has been improving with corporate itineraries in mind. They are encouraging hosts to up their game and offer business travelers daily housekeeping, luxurious amenities, and more attentive levels of service to be in line with the quality hotels provide.
Properties that appear as work-ready using this feature also list their Wi-Fi speed, a unique addition not offered by competitors that makes it easier for business travelers to ensure a strong connection during their stay.
As a platform, Airbnb offers support from agents in 11 different languages, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. However, this is only through messaging with slow response times and no option to speak to over the phone, which combined with fewer security features than hotels, is a concern for travel managers.
One solution to this duty of care issue is to reserve Airbnb rentals through TravelPerk's concierge service. Here travelers can benefit from 24/7 phone support from human customer care agents every day of the year.
Expensing can also be simplified by using a travel management service over a rental service like Airbnb. Travel managers can have invoices combined rather than receiving separate receipts for each element of their business travelers' itineraries. These systems not only save time but make it infinitely easier to manage travel budgets by generating spending reports at the click of a button.
Hotels retain a slight upper hand
Despite the exciting alternative accommodations Airbnb offers modern business travelers, it still has a way to go before competing with hotels on every score.
The first consideration for business travelers is the guarantee of quality hotels provide. Although it has a list of quality standards each host and home is vetted for, it's difficult for Airbnb to guarantee the true state of a property or the friendliness of a host on the ground. We all know the sins a well-orchestrated photograph can hide, and that generously sized workspace might be a bit cozier than expected on arrival.
Airbnb has added a 'super host' filter to counteract these risks so business travelers can book a stay that provides a high-quality service for their guests. However, it is worth noting that the listings that fall under super host and work-ready will be considerably more limited than those for leisure travelers.
Secondly, hotels tend to be more conveniently located. Whether in the heart of a city or close to business parks and conference centers, hotels make it easier for travelers to commute between where they stay and where they work.
Location is a challenge for Airbnb since most business parks are not close to residential areas, limiting options for corporate travelers. However, employees on longer trips may be more flexible with where they like to stay and don't necessarily want to be tied to an industrial park on the outskirts of town.
Perhaps the greatest inconvenience is that Airbnb only enables business travelers to book accommodation and a handful of experiences. Itineraries will still need to be completed using other sites meaning multiple platforms to manage and keep track of travelers' plans.
Ultimately this also results in more complicated invoicing and makes it harder to track compliance with corporate travel policies and to generate reports on spending. Corporate travelers and travel managers can streamline the booking process and travel budgets through a business travel agency.
With a system like TravelPerk, business travelers can choose from a range of accommodation and transport options in one simple dashboard. Plus, travel managers can establish parameters to ensure compliance and set automatic approvals to save time.
Another benefit to hotels and using a travel management company is the ability to accrue points and perks. Currently, Airbnb doesn't offer any rewards system for repeat customers, although there are rumors of such a program being in the pipeline.
On the other hand, hotels offer free membership where frequent travelers can rack up points to earn complimentary stays and other great benefits. Many credit cards also link to these schemes, and while one or two include Airbnb in their list of partnerships on the whole most stick to the larger hotel chains.
During the pandemic, flexibility became a key concern for business travelers, which is likely to remain for the foreseeable future. Overall, hotels offer more generous cancellation policies, especially for their loyalty club members.
Airbnb rentals are also potentially more unreliable in terms of cancellations. Hotels frequently have policies that ensure travelers are given suitable accommodation elsewhere when their bookings are canceled on their arrival date.
However, if an Airbnb host has an emergency and cannot uphold the booking, guests are likely to be left to make their own alternative arrangements. These situations could lead business travelers into difficult or potentially dangerous situations.
Despite trust being at the heart of the sharing economy, safety and security are a concern for travel managers using these platforms. Hotels offer safes, security cameras, and on-site staff to ensure travelers and their belongings remain secure. Plus, most company travel policies offer insurance against property theft or damage when staying at a recognized hotel.
Rentals typically have fewer safety features than hotels as their regulations are different. For example, carbon monoxide alarms are not included in private rentals in many countries but would be standard in large international hotel chains.
While Airbnb doesn't offer the same level of security, it's striving to address safety concerns. Hosts are checked against regulatory and terrorist sanctions, and Airbnb conducts background checks on all users in the United States.
The platform also provides a personalized if somewhat basic dashboard where travel managers can keep track of travelers' accommodation. Travel managers might prefer to use a more advanced risk management system that incorporates more aspects of their travelers' itineraries and real-time notifications for potential threats. Overall, Airbnb itself acknowledges that security relies heavily on a sense of community from its users, an ethos that might not be enough for corporate travelers' safety.
Airbnb vs hotels – how do they stack up?
When we compare hotels to Airbnb directly, here’s what we get:
|Cost||Up to 40% cheaper than hotels||Struggling to compete with Airbnb on price|
|Location||Offer more exciting and edgy locations – perfect for business retreats, team building days and millennials love them!||Conveniently located in business parks and city centers for an easy commute|
|Check-in||Flexible check-in times can be arranged at the discretion of the host. Some install a lock-box with keys to access the home so the traveler can self check-in at a time that suits them||Check-in times are set, and there's usually pressure to check out at a time that's convenient for the hotel. Check-in is always done with someone at reception which makes any small issues easier to resolve|
|Wi-fi & entertainment||The guidelines for homes suitable for business travel define a lodging must have Wi-Fi and a TV||Wi-fi and TVs are in rooms, but sometimes wi-fi comes at an extra cost|
|Amenities (laundry, safe, toiletries)||Homes aren’t expected to have a washing machine or safe, but toiletries and other home essentials are a requirement||Toiletries in the bathroom are common, with a safe and laundry service also available|
|Meeting rooms & facilities||Homes can be found with private rooms that can be used as workspaces and for collaborations. Large conference facilities aren’t guaranteed, but more creative options are available||Meeting rooms or large conference spaces can be booked at an additional cost to the rooms. These often come with points uplifts and benefits for loyalty club members|
|Experiences||Local experiences with Airbnb can be booked directly on the platform and range from wine tasting, cooking classes, and outdoor activities||Have agreements with local experience providers but these are sometimes limited to traditional activities (like tours or theatre shows)|
|Laptop friendly work spaces||Guidelines for homes suitable for business travel define this as a requirement||Hotel rooms usually have a desk, but this isn't guaranteed. Increasingly boutique hotels are offering co-working styled spaces for business travelers to use during their stay|
|Safety||Conducts regulatory and terrorist sanction checks worldwide and background checks on US hosts and guests. Often travel insurance won’t cover guests staying in accommodation that isn’t a hotel.||Often have staff available 24/7 to assist guests and CCTV to monitor the property. In-room safes offer an added level of protection for valuables and gadgets.|
|Loyalty benefits||Currently unavailable but a few credit cards partner with Airbnb.||Various hotel and credit card programs are available for different chains offering tiered benefits, including complimentary nights for frequent guests|
From this comparison, hotels still maintain the lead thanks to their higher levels of services and safety. The ease of integrating hotels into travel management systems makes compliance more straightforward and streamlines invoicing. However, it is undeniable that Airbnb offers a wider range of lodging solutions that meet emerging needs.
If your company is considering Airbnb, the nature of your corporate travel might shape your final decision. Typically Airbnb rentals are better suited to longer stays where cooking and doing laundry are made easier by the facilities they provide.
New hires might also prefer their relocation budgets being spent on a longer Airbnb rental over a short stay in a hotel. Gifting them more time to get to know their new city before committing to a lease is a gesture that is sure to go a long way towards retention.
Airbnb is giving companies a new perspective on how they manage business travel. A hotel may offer large conference rooms and a pool for a strategy day, but Airbnb for Work now provides more memorable options for long-awaited offsites with coworkers.
For brief individual work travel, hotels are likely to remain king. Still, when used correctly, Airbnb can come out on top. When it comes to cost, Airbnb is a better bet when sending employees for extended periods or for larger groups traveling to the same location over the same time frame. So if you are searching for a welcoming pad for new hires or an inspiring backdrop for unforgettable team-building sessions, Airbnb can come up with the goods.
Should I book my next business trip on Airbnb?
Not sure whether Airbnb is the right choice for your next corporate trip? This easy checklist can help;
What is the duration of this corporate trip?
- Airbnb rentals are typically more suitable for trips that are over a week in length.
- Hosts offer discounts on weekly and monthly bookings.
- Ideal for relocators or longer itineraries where travelers would appreciate facilities like washing machines and kitchens.
Who will be traveling on this itinerary?
- Better for groups of business travelers.
- Safety concerns and more remote locations could make Airbnb rentals unsuitable for solo travelers.
What is the purpose of this business trip?
- Airbnb rentals are great bases for new starters who have relocated.
- Can serve as inspiring backdrops for corporate getaways, allowing teams to reconnect and have creative brainstorming sessions in a new location.
- It is less suitable for short trips as their location tends to be away from business districts.
Do I need certain amenities for my business traveler or travelers?
- Business travelers might prefer to stay in a hotel where they can benefit from housekeeping, gym facilities, and room service.
Are you a travel manager looking to help a new starter get settled? Or a community manager looking to craft the ultimate offsite for your corporate teams? Please speak to our sales team to see what Airbnb options are available and impress your business travelers today.
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