Airbnb Looks to Tap Corporate Market with ‘Business Travel Ready’ Apartments

Airbnb Looks to Tap Corporate Market with ‘Business Travel Ready’ Apartments

Airbnb rolled out a new search tool on Monday to cater to the lucrative market of business travelers. Bloomberg’s Olivia Zaleski reports:

The feature will allow professionals to filter homes and apartments that Airbnb has deemed Business Travel Ready. To qualify for a BTR listing, as the company calls it, the dwelling must have a desk, Wi-Fi, self-check-in through a doorman or digital lock and various amenities you’d expect at a hotel, like free shampoo, a hairdryer and iron.

According to Airbnb, 90 percent of its customers are vacationers. … But Airbnb sees expense accounts as a big opportunity. U.S. business travel spending is expected to reach $296 billion by the end of this year and climb 5.2 percent next year, according to the Global Business Travel Association, a trade group. There were 250 companies signed up with Airbnb to book and manage business travel in 2015.

Airbnb’s main challenge is providing the level of consistency business travelers expect and rely on, AmTrav Corporate Travel president Craig Fichtelberg noted at Business Travel News last month, which may be why ridesharing services like Uber have had more success in the expense account market than Airbnb’s apartment-sharing model:

It is no easy task to take a diverse group of homeowners and establish a reliable level of consistency from one property to the next, but consistency is exactly what business travelers expect. Business travelers do not have time between meetings to track down room keys, find business centers or search for Wi-Fi networks and passwords. …

While Airbnb has struggled with business travelers, Uber has prospered. A Certify analysis of the business receipts it processed in 2016 showed Uber to be the most expensed service while Airbnb made up less than 1 percent of expenses in the lodging category. Both Airbnb and Uber are disruptors in their respected spaces. Both come in at lower price points than their traditional competitors. Both have easy-to-use mobile booking tools. But, the reason Uber has seen adoption with business travelers and Airbnb has not is the convenience factor. While Airbnb is struggling to provide a consistent level of convenience, Uber’s combination of lower cost and higher convenience fuels business travel adoption.

Meanwhile, Airbnb is not the only company looking to disrupt the business travel market. The Singapore-based startup MetroResidences, for instance, is catering to corporate employees traveling for longer stints than the typical Airbnb customer. TechCrunch’s Jon Russell profiled the startup last month after it received a $2.8 million investment from the Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten:

MetroResidences was founded in 2014 by James Chua and Lester Kang and it matches corporate employees needing to rent for a month or more with home owners who seek tenants. It is currently active in Singapore, but has plans to expand into Hong Kong and Tokyo using this funding, which is the startup’s Series A, and takes it to $3.5 million from investors to date. …

Kang told TechCrunch in an interview that clientele is typically multinational companies who bring staff to Singapore on short-term project work for a few months. The service is also caters to newly arrived expats. Typically, these workers are put up in a hotel until their local rental is arranged, but MetroResidences says it is replacing the hotel part of the stay for them.