The emergence of mobile, on-demand services like Apple Pay, Uber and Airbnb have largely changed the way their perspective markets do business. But these disruptors have been challenged by regulators cracking down on their sometimes questionable ability to work around certain industry rules.
While the debate forges ahead over whether, and how, these apps should be regulated, Airbnb is already exploring new business models within the rental services segment, moving the business a bit further away from its controversial bedroom rental tool.
According to reports last week in the Wall Street Journal, Airbnb is dipping its toes into the Software-as-a-Service arena. While its plan could similarly attract regulatory scrutiny, reports said, its new software could potentially benefit other major players in the property rental and vacation markets.
Entering the SaaS Market
Airbnb is said to be developing a new interface to streamline property managers’ process of linking their rentals to the app. The software would reportedly automate some aspects of pricing and other details that, at present, must be handled on a property-by-property basis. According to some property managers, the current manual process of linking vacancies to Airbnb is too time-consuming.
Reports said the move brings Airbnb closer to the vacation industry, a more regulated segment than connecting individuals with a spare bedroom to renters, the business it’s known for. The move would also launch Airbnb into the B2B side of renting, and into the swell of the SaaS sector that has recently taken hold in markets across the globe.
Indeed, said Airbnb spokesperson Christopher Nulty, the launch of such software would aid the company in getting a more global grip on the market. “Our global community of more than 30 million guests is passionate about exploring every corner of the world, not just cities, which is why we are piloting partnerships in a few vacation-rental markets,” he said.
At first, Airbnb will reportedly make its new software available to just a few, select partners, though the company did not indicate which partners it would go after. But reports did note that the new interface would be compatible with property management software Kigo, which provides property managers with a platform to oversee an average of about 100 units each.
The app isn’t a stranger to the business side of travel, either. Last year the firm partnered up with travel and expense management software service Concur to strengthen its corporate travel bookings service. The firm has largely been a hit with the corporate world.
While individual renters and business travelers may enjoy the perks of a mobile, on-demand service, regulation has not been kind to Airbnb in recent months, and reports said even its new foray into vacation SaaS may take a hit.
The hotel industry is particularly irked by Airbnb, arguing that the firm should adhere to the same regulations and booking taxes hoteliers do. City lawmakers have forced Airbnb to remove thousands of listings, too, especially in New York City and Southern California. Most recently, Santa Monica officials passed a ban on the app, with plans to hire new full-time staff to monitor any illegal rentals that come up through the service or others.
But even with Airbnb’s plans to launch a software service in the more regulated vacation sector, reports said the company is likely to face additional criticism from hotel managers about the firm’s tax-less rental strategy. But according to Nulty, the company has launched discussions with several cities about collecting taxes, which could potentially expand into its vacation rental service, too.
Still, the ability for property managers to more easily and quickly access Airbnb’s plethora of mobile users could prove good news to the professional rental industry, and the company’s efforts in developing new software for the market just might encourage greater acceptance of innovation and automation in the segment. Only time will tell, though, if regulators will let that happen.