The movement toward corporate travel beyond the staid hotel room has helped transform Airbnb to become a new option for business travelers globally. In an interview with PYMNTS, the company noted its growing popularity with companies and its potential in this nascent market, where ease of booking and especially expense management — as two activities joined in one seamless experience — stand as major attractions.
Airbnb’s push toward the corporate travel market needs not raise eyebrows. Certify (not affiliated with the company), a cloud-based travel and expense management software provider, found through a quarterly survey that Airbnb is now the fifth most popular online travel booking site for consumers and that corporate travelers spend an average of four nights at those locations compared to an average of two nights at other, more traditional venues. Average expense amounts tied to Airbnb come in at $745 per expense, compared to $294 for hotels.
Airbnb told PYMNTS it already knew that 10 percent of guests were using the platform for business travel but wanted “to provide an offering to make it easy to integrate with a company’s existing business travel management program," leading to the launch of its global travel management suite back in July.
Since that launch, the suite has logged bookings from more than 1,000 companies across the Airbnb for Business program. Alongside the growth of that engine, Airbnb has found a need to provide managers with what it has termed “greater transparency” and now offers the ability for corporate customers to help boost accurate travel and expense reporting, giving the option to opt in to the services offered in tandem with software firm Concur.
In connection with that partnership, which has been around for roughly a year, the latter’s TripLink service books trips directly to Airbnb locations, and expense reports, itineraries and other data are “automatically populated” into the Concur software. Such a continuum of information has led to Airbnb becoming part of the corporate travel pantheon of firms such as Google, Vox Media and SoundCloud.
Through Airbnb, the data deluge typically tied to T&E becomes more manageable, with dashboards to navigate itineraries, as well as financial data. The centralized billing function also allows for direct billing to a company (rather than having expenses tied to or paid by an individual on the road).
Separately, according to Airbnb, the research the firm conducted, which informed the “Business Travel Ready” program, found that host and guest needs for business travel differ from those seen with more casual, leisure-oriented bookings. The hosts themselves can now identify themselves as “business travel ready,” with Wi-Fi and workspaces available or a 24-hour check-in policy. There is also a policy tied to these properties: no host cancellations within seven days of a booked stay.