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02.23.17 | 11:24 am

Is Airbnb on an acquisition spree?

Late yesterday Airbnb closed on its acquisition of Tilt, a fintech startup for crowdfunding and peer-to-peer payments. Last week, it bought Canadian company Luxury Rentals and its portfolio of high-end properties. 

Those deals, along with Airbnb's recent foray into travel experiences with the launch of tour service Trips, point to the company's broadening ambitions. No longer content to offer accommodation alone, Airbnb is evolving into a full-fledged travel platform.

Will the acquisitions continue? Certainly Airbnb has the cash to make deals happen, projecting annual profits of $3 billion by 2020. We expect CEO Brian Chesky to be opportunistic about deals, while continuing to build new product features in-house.

[Photo: Airbnb] 

02.17.17 | 12:10 pm

Airbnb blasts “Big Hotel” for contradictory tax lobbying 

Airbnb is fighting back against the hotel industry with a new marketing effort. On its Airbnb Citizen's blog, the home-sharing unicorn now details the ways in which the hotel industry has contradicted itself by asking for Airbnb and its users to be taxed more heavily—only to then lobby against efforts to tax its own industry. Lobbyists for the hotel industry see proposals to tax Airbnb as legitimizing what they consider to be an illegal hotel business. 

The post is an effort to make Airbnb look like an underdog against Big Hotel. The reality, of course, is that Airbnb itself, estimated to be a $30 billion company, is one of the big guys too. It's also worth remembering that Airbnb has seriously ramped up its lobbying efforts of late, spending nearly half a million dollars on lobbying in 2016, almost double what it spent the year before.

02.16.17 | 3:19 pm

Airbnb officially acquires Canadian company Luxury Retreats

Airbnb said today it will acquire Montreal-based Luxury Retreats (a purchase that was rumored to be in the works). 

The acquisition is significant because it indicates Airbnb's interest in being more than just a site for affordable accommodations. Luxury Retreats offers fancy villas and homes that are used purely as getaways (not everyone likes staying in someone else's home). We already knew Airbnb wants to expand into a broader travel platform, but the Luxury Retreats buy shows it wants to make an up-market move a priority. Airbnb didn't disclose the terms of the deal, but it's rumored to be its biggest acquisition to date. 

02.15.17 | 9:22 am

Airbnb expects to generate $3.5 billion a year by 2020

Home rental unicorn Airbnb could be earning as much as $3.5 billion annually in the next three years, sources tell Forbes. Here are two extra tidbits from the report:

Airbnb spends shockingly little on overhead: no more than $300 million in total since it kicked up operations nine years ago.

• Airbnb earned $100 million in profit on $1.7 billion revenue last year. 

Read the full report here

01.27.17 | 2:07 pm

Airbnb may be profitable, but it continues to face hurdles 

The big news this week for Airbnb is that it hit profitability in mid-2016, according to Bloomberg. But the home-sharing site still faces a host of restrictions in cities ranging from New York to Barcelona—and most recently Oakland, California: Officials there are primarily concerned with illegal hotels and their drain on long-term housing stock. 

Airbnb has already offered to work with officials in San Francisco on cracking down on rogue users. The question is whether losing illegal users will eat into its bottom line. A report from Oakland's city planning department showed that 14% of local Airbnb listings were from non-resident users. But in other regions it might be higher. A 2016 report showed that nearly 40% of tourist apartments in Barcelona were illegal. 

If restrictions do come to bear, what will it mean for Airbnb? Let me know what you think. Tweet me at @ruthreader on Twitter.

01.09.17 | 11:35 am

Here’s a fresh reminder how Uber and other gig-economy giants use data to get their way with cities

Last night, news broke that Uber will share some of its coveted data about traffic patterns and routes with city officials. While the olive branch could be a boon for city planners, it's not exactly what they were asking asking for—and it reminds us how Silicon Valley companies use their vast troves of data to maintain the upper hand with the cities that regulate them. 

Case in point: New York City has been asking Uber for driver pickup and drop-off data in order to check how many hours drivers are working. Uber already shares pickup data, but it says adding drop-off data puts the privacy of its customers at risk. Now suddenly it launches this new initiative, called Uber Movement, which may distract regulators from pressing for the data they want and could serve as leverage in future entanglements with city officials.  

It's right out of the gig-economy playbook. Airbnb pulled a similar move two years ago, offering regulators data to show that the vast majority of its users were regular people, not building owners operating illegal hotels. Then in November, it called for a mandatory new registration process in San Francisco so it could better track and share data about properties with that city. In both instances, Airbnb and Uber are using data to maintain control of their relationship with local governments. 

No regulator has yet been able to tame either Airbnb or Uber, though not for lack of trying. Both companies continue to operate in markets where they're not welcome or where the legality of their business is murky. While they have tons of resources for fighting financially cumbersome legal battles, data appears a means to quell anxious officials.   

  

01.06.17 | 3:08 pm

Airbnb bets on panoramic live video to boost bookings

If you're an Airbnb host, the onus is on you to make your home as attractive as possible to potential guests. But if you're not in super-high-demand places like New York City's hottest neighborhoods, you probably could still use a boost that gets people looking for places to vacation to be more interested in your area.

Airbnb has done a lot of work on that over the years, and now, according to Adweek, it's trying out something new: live 360-degree videos on Twitter and Periscope that aim to talk up fun things to do in certain areas, like cooking special meals, visiting favorite haunts, checking out special homes, and more. The idea? To whet vacation planners' appetites. 

 

12.01.16 | 6:49 am

Airbnb just banned London hosts from renting their homes for more than 90 days

In an effort to address criticism that its service is making housing in the U.K.'s capital more expensive, Airbnb has introduced limits on how many days a London-based host can rent out their flat without consent from the host's local council, reports the Guardian. To be clear, the more than 90-day ban doesn't apply to single rooms in a home, just entire homes themselves. It goes into effect at the beginning of 2017. In an email to London-based hosts announcing the move, the company wrote:

"We want to help ensure that home sharing grows responsibly and sustainably, and makes London's communities stronger. That is why we are introducing a change to our platform that will create new and automated limits to help ensure that entire home listings in London are not shared for more than 90 days a year, unless hosts confirm that they have permission to share their space more frequently. The new measures will begin from 2017. If you want to host more often, you will need to certify that you have permission to do so or apply for the relevant permissions from your local council."

11.17.16 | 1:42 pm

Airbnb’s new “Places” feature offers audio tours and restaurant reservations

Airbnb wants to be more than just an app to find a place to stay. During an event in Los Angeles Thursday, it launched two new features: Experiences and Places. Experiences offers immersive opportunities to spend time with locals when you travel, while Places offers a city guide of sorts, allowing you to get custom recommendations on where to visit in the city designed by locals. For instance, you can get tips on what museums to hit or where to grab a bite to eat, and even make a reservation within the app.

Airbnb has also partnered with mobile app Detour for a new "Audio walks" feature, which offers audio tours of cities narrated by locals, often visiting locations off the beaten path from where tourists typically visit. Local Meetups will allow Airbnb guests to connect with others visiting the city at the same time as they are.

11.17.16 | 1:31 pm

Airbnb launches “Experiences,” immersive trips for travelers

Now Airbnb isn't just for finding a place to stay, it can also help you figure out what to do once you get there. Today the company launched a new "Experiences" feature, which pairs hosts with travelers who want to try something new.

Hand-crafted experiences that allow you to live like a local. Experiences can last a few hours or a few days. Experiences are organized by types—for instance, you could select a food or drink adventure or an art tour of the city you're visiting. Each trip has a "movie trailer" of sorts, so you can get a feel for what you're getting into before you book, and half of the trips are priced under $200.

11.16.16 | 12:30 pm

Airbnb’s new “magical trips” could take your travel experiences to a whole new level

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky is making an announcement tomorrow, and chances are it will be something the company refers to internally as "magical trips," according to Skift

That sounds like something out of Disney, but it really amounts to tours from locals and other travel excursions and activities. Airbnb had already been testing a beta program called City Hosts since June, Skift writes:

A quick sampling of the experiences includes: a 7-hour Wynwood Tour and Party in Miami for $300 per person; a day spent with life coaches with a welcome brunch, walk and mediation, and an early morning rave for $346 per person in London; a three-hour retail tour of Tokyo's Akihabara District in search of the coolest anime collectibles and toys with an online retailer for $34 per person; and learning how to make your own ramen with a second-generation ramen maker in Tokyo.

As Airbnb hospitality head Chip Conley told Skift, this aligns with the company's desire to move beyond just home sharing. "Our goal is to become the super brand of travel," Conley said. "We want to help people not just with accommodations but with experiences as well."

11.15.16 | 10:35 am

Average monthly earnings for gig economy workers are in decline 

Sharing economy platforms like TaskRabbit and Uber are struggling to retain their workers—and now, we have a better idea as to why. Average monthly earnings for labor platform contractors have fallen 6% since June 2014, according to a new analysis by the JPMorgan Chase Institute. 

The declining wages are due in part to increased competition, which has led to lower prices. (No wonder over half of Uber drivers quit within a year.)

However, the change in wages differs dramatically from city to city. In Atlanta, for example, average monthly earnings dropped 10% between June 2016 and June 2015, landing at $647. But in Los Angeles, over the same period, earnings rose 14% to $960. 

[Photo: Flickr user Renate Dodell]