The lodging platform Airbnb has been vying for a share of the trillion-dollar global business travel market since 2014, when it first launched “Airbnb for Business” and began advertising houses and apartments with desks, Wi-Fi, and other essential amenities to users traveling for work. Since then, the service has been rebranded as “Airbnb for Work,” and on Monday, the company announced that it was growing exponentially, with almost 700,000 companies having employees sign up and book travel through Airbnb. That’s up from 250,000 as of April 2017. Business travel bookings tripled from 2015 to 2016, then tripled again from 2016 to 2017, Airbnb boasted.
In its blog post announcing these new user numbers, Airbnb also highlighted some fun facts about how people are using Airbnb for Work:
- Bleisure (combining business trips with leisure stays) – we continue to see people tack on weekend days to explore the cities they’re traveling to. More than 30% of Airbnb for Work bookings in the past year include at least one weekend night.
- “Traditional” business trips – a year ago, the average trip on Airbnb was six nights or more; today, the average stay with Airbnb for Work is about five days, and the fastest growing segment of trips is three nights or less. Business travelers are increasingly using Airbnb for shorter trips, which they may have booked hotels for in the past.
- Collaboration – nearly 60 percent of Airbnb for Work trips in the last year had more than one guest. Of the 60 percent of Airbnb for Work trips with more than one guest, nearly 40 percent of had three or more guests. Teams are traveling together to bond and collaborate.
- Mobility – we’re seeing extended stays and relocations being booked on Airbnb for many different reasons and lengths of time — ranging from long business trips or training sessions that require several weeks away, to on-site projects that can last several months to a year. In the past year alone, we’ve seen stays with Airbnb for Work 14 days or longer grow nearly 3X.
In the era of big data and analytics, data scientists are hot property in the labor market right now: A report released last month by the Business-Higher Education Forum and PwC warned that the US is facing a huge skills gap in this field, with 69 percent of employers who say they need candidates with data science and analytics skills, compared to just 23 percent of college and university leaders who say their students are graduating with those skills.
An analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics earlier this year showed that data scientists were at the top of the list of the most in-demand professions, and according to Glassdoor, they are earning some of the highest salaries in the country. Yet the US, it seems, is simply not producing enough data science experts to fill the large and growing demand.
One way to address this gap is to invest more in university data science programs, but employers don’t have the time to wait for new classes of graduates to rise through the college pipeline. With that in mind, John Mannes reports at TechCrunch, Airbnb is trying a different approach—introducing its own internal, university-style data science program, “complete with a custom course-numbering system”:
Data University is Airbnb’s attempt to make its entire workforce more data literate. Traditional online programs like Coursera and Udacity just weren’t getting the job done because they were not tailored to Airbnb’s internal data and tools. So the company decided to design a bunch of courses of its own around three levels of instruction for different employee needs.
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:
A new report from Pew looks at how many US adults make money from digital platforms, including “gig economy” labor platforms like Uber, capital platforms like Airbnb, and sales platforms like Etsy. Overall, the report finds, 24 percent of Americans earned money in what it calls the “platform economy” in the past year. Pew’s Aaron Smith highlights the findings on who uses these platforms to find work, noting that in total, 8 percent of American adults have earned money on a digital work platform:
Participation in technology-enabled gig work varies by a number of factors, with age being among the most prominent. Some 16% of 18- to 29-year-olds have earned money from online gig work platforms in the last year – roughly five times the share among those ages 50 and older (3%). The median age of U.S. adults who are gig platform earners is just 32 years old. When it comes to the specific types of work that they do, young adults are especially likely to gravitate towards online task work. Fully 12% of 18- to 29-year-olds have earned money doing online tasks, but that share falls to 4% for Americans ages 30 to 49 and just 1% among those 50 and older.
Along with these differences by age, platform work is also more prevalent among blacks and Latinos than among whites. Some 14% of blacks and 11% of Latinos have earned money in the last year from online gig work platforms, but just 5% of whites have done so. Blacks and Latinos are each more likely than whites to have earned money doing online tasks (7% of blacks and Latinos have done so, compared with 3% of whites). But blacks in particular are more likely than whites to have earned money doing physical tasks like working as a ride-hailing driver, or by taking on jobs involving cleaning or laundry (5% of blacks have done each of these activities in the last year, compared with 1% of whites).
The main reasons respondents gave for using online platforms to find work were to have something to do in their spare time, to fill gaps in their income, and to have control over their schedule. Most gig economy workers are financially dependent on the work they do through these platforms; 29 percent told Pew that the income they earned through these platforms was essential to meeting their needs, while 27 percent said it was an important component of their budget. We can compare this finding with other studies published this year, which have found that most gig economy workers rely on these platforms for a sizable chunk, but not a majority, of their income, and that most depend on multiple income streams.
Amid controversy over a study finding a disturbingly high prevalence of racial discrimination among its users, Airbnb made diversity and inclusion the centerpiece of its annual OpenAir tech conference this week and said it was working to combat bias on its “sharing economy” lodging rental platform, Marisa Kendall writes at SiliconBeat:
A study by Harvard Business School earlier this year found travelers with African-American-sounding names were 16 percent less likely to be given a room than travelers with white-sounding names. The study sparked a national outcry and the #AirbnbWhileBlack Twitter hashtag, which African-American travelers used to share stories of discrimination they experienced on the home-sharing platform.
David King, Airbnb’s new director of diversity and belonging, laid out some general steps Airbnb is taking to tackle discrimination, but didn’t reveal specific things the company would change. He said Airbnb plans to train hosts on unconscious bias and make sure internal Airbnb employees have the tools and training to handle instances of bias. King said Airbnb is conducting a review of its platform to assess what needs to change, which will conclude in September. Conference attendees also heard a panel discussion on “building an inclusive company,” which featured King, gender discrimination activist Ellen Pao and Slack Director of Engineering Leslie Miley.
While the changes Airbnb is making are focused on its customer base, not its staff, the Los Angeles Times‘ Tracy Lien argues that simply by showing that it cares about this problem, the company, whose workforce is less than 3 percent black, is signaling to minority talent that it’s an inclusive and welcoming place for them to work:
Airbnb has become the latest tech company to hire a chief of diversity. David King III, the organization’s new head of diversity and belonging, has a background in public service with roles at the Peace Corps and the State Department, USA Today’s Jessica Guynn reports:
King, an attorney, began his career in legal compliance with the Peace Corps, where he organized celebrations for Black History Month and Pride Month in his spare time. That unofficial role led King to join the State Department’s Office of Civil Rights in 2005 to focus full-time on diversity and inclusion under secretaries Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton, an organization he says, “really has a history of not being the most diverse and inclusive environment.” […]
During his tenure, he worked on increasing same-sex domestic partner benefits and the recruitment and retention of diverse foreign service officers. In 2013, King returned to the Peace Corps to work on diversity and inclusion. He says Secretary Clinton met with him to discuss diversity her second week on the job at the State Department. King says he was drawn to Airbnb for the same reason: Commitment to diversity came from the top. [Airbnb CEO Brian] Chesky, he says, is prepared to challenge ingrained attitudes and practices inside the industry and his own company.
Davey Alba at Wired looks ahead to the hard work that awaits King at Airbnb, whose diversity challenges encompass not only its staff but also its user base:
A new, three-year study from the JPMorgan Chase Institute estimates that 10.3 million Americans earned income through an online “gig economy” platform like Uber or Airbnb between October 2012 and September 2015. That finding, based on data from an anonymized sample of 1 million Chase customers, is in the middle of a pack of widely divergent calculations of the size of the gig workforce. Tatiana Darie at Bloomberg delves into the report’s other findings:
Participants in this economy are typically younger, with the 25 to 34 age group accounting for the largest part of the gig workforce. They are more likely to be male, live in the West and have an average median income of about $2,800 per month, according to the study. The number of people earning income in the online economy over the three-year period of JPMorgan’s study increased 47-fold. Labor platforms, including ride-hailing service Uber, that connect customers with freelancers have grown more rapidly than capital platforms like Airbnb, which rent homes and assets or sell goods. Demand is also driving the growth as online service use becomes more common. …
While the platform economy is getting bigger, there’s no evidence that people are quitting their primary jobs for this type of work. Monthly earnings from online platforms were as much as $530 or 33 percent of people’s total monthly income on average, according to the report. A deeper drill-down shows that labor platform earnings helped Americans offset dips in their overall income, while earnings from capital platforms only supplemented their existing pay. More than 60 percent participated in capital platforms in any given month.
This squares with a recent survey from Intuit, which also found that the gig workforce is mostly young, male, and reliant on multiple streams of income, though respondents to that survey reported making a lower proportion of their total income—22 percent—from on-demand work.