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Airbnb’s rapid conquest of the guest accommodation
market shows no sign of abating, and that even includes winning the business of
corporate travelers, whether their employers know or not. Even so, Airbnb in
2014 launched a strategy to engage with corporate buyers. BTN
contributing editor Amon Cohen caught up with the company’s business travel
lead, Marc McCabe, during the Business Travel Show in London last month for an
What have you been doing to make Airbnb more attractive for the
We started by having conversations with travel
managers. Ralph Colunga [then senior director of global travel, meetings and
expense for Salesforce.com, now senior director of global travel for Concur]
told us he needed four things: tracking and visibility; integration with
corporate travel processes; compatibility with the business’ profile, such as
groups, long-term assignments and short-term assignments; and duty of care.
To give corporate clients visibility, we have created corporate account codes that businesses pass on to employees to use at the Airbnb checkout page. That means we can share the data back to the customer. We have also created a business search portal to weed out inappropriate properties so they only have entire properties and houses with Wi-Fi.
Tell us about the integration with Concur.
It’s a huge leap forward. We are in the TripLink app center, so the
booking itinerary and expense report are all baked in together. That makes it
much easier for the traveler. Now we want to start automating for companies
that don’t use Concur so that there is a way for travelers not to have to input
a corporate ID on our site. We are very close to launching this.
So you are looking to work with more partners in travel distribution?
Yes, we’re exploring other partners. We want to play well in the
ecosystem and get the data into the right places.
Are you talking about working with global distribution systems or online
Online booking tools. That’s more probable. In fact, there’s a range of
booking tools, travel management companies and security companies. We’re
providing booking data to International SOS for certain companies. Duty of care
and tracking are overlapping. What we offer means companies know where their
employees are and that we are filtering out inappropriate properties.
What about companies that don’t want their travelers using Airbnb
It’s better to track bookings with us than not to. Leakage is 50 percent
when it comes to hotel policy, and a lot of that comes to us. We want to get
the data back to the companies. They are hearing from employees that this is
what they want. Of all the corporate customers who have signed up with us, not
a single one has pulled out.
But isn’t the problem that employers risk making themselves liable
because they have not been able to vet the Airbnb properties their travelers
are staying in?
You can filter Airbnb properties by whether they have smoke detectors
and carbon-monoxide alarms. And a lot of people don’t know we have host
guarantees so that if, for example, a guest gets injured, the host is covered.
What kind of travel do corporate guests use your properties for?
We’ve seen some relocations and corporate retreats but we have also seen
a lot of transient trips. The average is one to four days.
What is the profile of your client companies and the travelers within
those companies who like to use Airbnb?
We started mainly with tech firms, but now we have companies like
nursing agencies, car rental firms and consulting companies. The traveler's profile
is as varied as the rest of the site. Certainly, we have millennials, but the
average age of the typical corporate guest is older than that.
What’s next on the corporate side
of the business?
We’re just at the beginning. For instance, we can potentially show properties to travelers that their colleagues have already booked. Business trips are trips people have to take, so to give them something that suits their tastes is very valuable for a travel program. It gives the traveler more the feel of a local culture plus touches like a blender or a guitar in the corner.
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