Airbnb has stepped up its attempts to lure the corporate travel market away from hotel chains and into private accommodation.
The online lodging rental service is rolling out enhanced functionality that allows people to book Airbnb stays on behalf of colleagues as well as manage itineraries and send messages.
“This makes it really easy to book on a colleague’s behalf, and it clearly designates to the host who will be coming to stay with them,” Airbnb vice president of engineering Mike Curtis said.
Airbnb’s head of payments Lex Bayer added : “We’re responding to our customers. Companies like Google and Salesforce have really been instrumental in having their travel managers tell us what features they’d like to see on our platforms.”
The sharing economy giant has already stated that the business traveller is one its targets for growth along with the Chinese market and out-of-town destinations and last year launched the Business Travel Ready programme, which helped hosts make their properties more attractive to corporate clients.
Other upgrades, including an online dashboard featuring central purchasing and billing functionality, employee tracking, and expense reporting, has already seen a reported tripling in the number of business travellers using the site. It has Morgan Stanley among its customers.
Mr Bayer said: “We’re trying to create a really healthy ecosystem and offering around business travel.”
The new functionality is not available to travel agents but, Mr Bayer said: “I wouldn’t exclude it as a possibility. We’re really doing this in conjunction with companies already on our platform.”
Airbnb, founded in 2008, is looking to challenge the traditional preference for hotel chains rather than independent properties, used by just 2% of the business travelling community.
According to a survey for the Guild of Travel Management Companies , 75% of travellers would rather stay in chain hotels with 21% preferring independent hotels, leaving only a few scraps for Airbnb-style deals.
It is a traditionally a conservative market – regardless of age. Travellers like to know what they are going to get, they expect a certain standard and they want everything to be hassle-free and in a appropriate location – all with guaranteed Wi-fi, the most essential service, according to the survey.
On the flipside, fear of the unknown and safety factors worked against Airbnb-style offerings – as well as a worry about an inferior breakfast.
Some three million Britons now use Airbnb with 52,000 hosts sharing their UK home, as measured in 2015 with a £1.3billion annual economic impact in London – meaning changes in revenue streams, profits and jobs.
The growth of mobile phones for bookings in the leisure industry is seen as a key trigger along with the growth of peer review sites, such as Trip Advisor.