In an interesting development, Airbnb has announced a partnership with expense-account giant Concur which will integrate Airbnb rentals into Concur's TripLink system starting this fall. This means that business travelers will be able to book directly with Airbnb, and have receipts and details automatically flow into their expense account system.
Airbnb is aggressively trying to gain market share in the business travel market, and have already created a business-specific travel portal allowing employees to search for properties that are deemed to have the necessary amenities for business travelers, such as privacy and wifi. Concur has already seen Airbnb travel on expense accounts quadruple annually since 2010, and approximately 10% of Airbnb's customers are already traveling for business.
What does this mean for you?
This partnership obviously makes a lot of sense for both Airbnb and Concur, but among our contingent of points and miles lovers, you're probably scoffing as you read this and saying to yourself that there's no way in the world that you would stay at Airbnb on business in lieu of your friendly neighborhood hotel chain. That was my initial reaction as well - by staying at hotel chains while on business, that allows me to earn points that I can use on vacations, and that's an extremely valuable perk especially for those that travel week-in and week-out.
But this view could change in the not-so-distant future if a couple things were to happen. First, if Airbnb rolled out a serious loyalty program which earned points of equivalent value to those of hotel chains, that could start to really sway people. In effect, Airbnb would be its own hotel chain, with more properties to choose from than all of the other chains combined. And while many people, including myself, hoard hotel points for use on aspirational stays, that would work with Airbnb as well which has huge villas and mansions all over the world for rent.
Second, many corporate travel policies either place hard caps on the cost of lodging by location, or some form of a floating cap based on price differential from the lowest cost option of a minimum quality. If Airbnb rentals are some day pooled together with other hotels, it's likely that there will be an option on Airbnb that can be booked at a much lower price than traditional hotel options. At some point, the corporate bean counters will take note, and could change policies to drive travel toward Airbnb to realize some of those savings.
Either way, it will be interesting to see how this plays out. If Airbnb is successful in consistently providing a quality, low-cost option, this could have a big impact on business travel in the future.
What are your thoughts on this partnership, and do you think it will eventually impact business travel?