If you're planning a business trip, you might be happy to know you can now book that Airbnb on Concur. Today the two companies expanded their partnership to allow Airbnb listings to show up next to traditional hotels in the corporate travel search results when companies opt in. The move marks the first time Airbnb properties will show up in a corporate travel partner's platform.
Airbnb denounces hotel-backed NYC sting operations as “second-rate KGB spy tactics”
Hotels have been pretty vocal about their aggravation over the rise of Airbnb, and some are putting their money where their mouth is. According to Bloomberg, some hotel-backed groups are running Airbnb sting operations in New York City, where it's illegal to rent an entire unit for less than 30 days if the host isn't present or if it's being rented to more than two people.
The group behind the sting operations is Share Better, which Bloomberg describes as "a partnership between hotel union and industry leaders aiming to expose illegal Airbnb activity." They hire private investigators who book stays at Airbnb rentals in New York in the hopes of catching hosts ignoring the law and plan to spend $1 million of its members' money to expedite the process of finding and removing illegal Airbnb listings. (They're also helping run a parallel campaign in D.C. and advising one in L.A.)
While New York's attorney general and the Mayor's Office of Special Enforcement—which spends the bulk of its time cracking down on illegal rentals—are probably happy for the help, Airbnb and the hard-hustling hosts aren't too thrilled by the move. "The hotel industry and its lobbyists are using Share Better to spy on New Yorkers," Josh Meltzer, Airbnb's head of New York public policy, told Bloomberg. "The city should reject these second-rate KGB spy tactics and work with Airbnb to sensibly regulate home-sharing." Read the full story over at Bloomberg while rethinking your New York City vacation plans.
Here’s how much Airbnb is expected to grow through 2019—competition be damned
New data from eMarketer suggests Airbnb will continue to grow U.S. users through 2019, while its percentage of the shared lodging market will decline. According to the report, 36.8 million adults in the United States will use Airbnb this year, an increase of 21.2% over 2016. By 2021, eMarketer expects that Airbnb will double its user base to 60.8 million adults. At that point the agency expects Airbnb's growth to slow down to single digits.
In 2017, Airbnb will have 94% of the shared-lodging market in the United States. While that's certainly a large percentage, that's down from 97% of the space last year. By 2021, eMarketer expects that percentage to drop to 92%.
[Images: eMarketer] EP
Airbnb wants to rent you mansions and penthouses and villas, oh my!
Airbnb already rents out fashionable homes to bigwigs like Lady Gaga, but now it wants to make those premium homes into a stand-alone offering. The company is working on a project informally called Airbnb Lux, according to Bloomberg. The new tier of homes would cater to wealthy travelers seeking more lavish accommodations afforded through penthouses, mansions, and villas. The news comes as no surprise. Airbnb was already headed in this direction as indicated by its purchase of Canadian-based Luxury Retreats in February. The expansion into higher-end properties will no doubt boost its bottom line. RR
Airbnb is testing out a way to split the cost for bookings
Airbnb is trying out group payments. "We're currently testing a way to split the cost of a trip on the Airbnb platform. This is a limited, initial pilot–our goal is to make it even easier to use Airbnb to travel with friends and family," reads a statement from Airbnb spokesman Tim Rathscmidt. The ability to split payments on the platform was first discovered by the Next Web. It's a new payment pilot built on the same infrastructure as its flexible payment options (a feature I discovered while booking my honeymoon recently). Airbnb is known for experimenting with ways to pay, but the sudden burst of innovation comes after it acquired Tilt. RR
Airbnb responds to coming Trump restrictions on travel to Cuba
The rolling back of President Barack Obama's initiative to expand relations with the country could have negative consequences for Airbnb's business in Cuba, which launched in 2015. It began welcoming U.S. citizens to Cuba last year. The majority of travelers to Cuba come from outside the United States. Still, 35% of guests come from the U.S. In total, Cuban hosts have made $40 million from Airbnb since its arrival.
Here is Airbnb's response to the potential travel changes:
Over the last two years, thousands of Airbnb guests from around the world have traveled to Cuba to share ideas, experiences, and cultures. Airbnb has helped individual Cuban people earn extra income and we have seen how travel can break down barriers and promote understanding.
Travel from the U.S. to Cuba is an important way to encourage people-to-people diplomacy. While we are reviewing what this policy could mean for this type of travel, we appreciate that the policy appears to allow us to continue to support Airbnb hosts in Cuba who have welcomed travelers from around the world.
We look forward to reviewing the details of the policy and speaking with the Administration and Congress about this issue in the weeks and months ahead.
Airbnb says Cubans are cashing in on Airbnb
Airbnb has just released some statistics for its Cuban venture, and the numbers might make Raul Castro knock over his mojito. In just over two years, Cubans have earned nearly $40 million by hosting tourists in their homes. ¿Viva capitalism?
According to Airbnb, there have been over 560,000 "guest arrivals" (guessing that means bookings, not individuals) since they started up in Cuba in 2015, helping Cubans cash in as American travel restrictions were finally eased. Airbnb is not only a cheaper alternative to some of the hotels in the country, but it's also an easy way for Americans traveling on so-called person-to-person visas, which require interaction with Cuban people, to learn about the country firsthand as they share the homes and sometimes dinner tables of locals.
Travelers have been paying an average of $164 to their Cuban hosts, which translates to $2,700 average annual Airbnb income for Cubans who open their homes to travelers. The economic boost is particularly helpful for women, as 58% of Airbnb hosts are female. While renting out rooms to tourists has a long tradition in Cuba (so-called casa particulars are quite common), the success of Airbnb is particularly impressive considering internet access is hard to come by, expensive, and slow in Cuba. Hopefully the numbers don't make Castro and the Cuban government rethink the partnership.
Take two: Airbnb launches another travel magazine
Airbnb has launched a new magazine in collaboration with Hearst that will appear on newsstands soon. It is Airbnb's first attempt at printed content since the failure of Pineapple—and round two might not be any easier. Between 2014 and 2015, travel magazine readership in the U.S. slipped by 3%, according to Statista. Hearst hopes that Airbnb can reinvigorate travel magazines much the way it has done so for the travel and lodging industry. Hearst's Chief Content Officer Joanna Coles said in a statement, "By partnering with Airbnb, we are able to serve their global community and provide readers with the most inspiring and most real-life travel stories, experiences and tips." Which may means she thinks there's a ready readership Hearst can tap into. For Airbnb, getting a magazine placed on the coffee tables of the homes on its platform can only help create a complete experience for their users. Subscribers can get six issues of the magazine for $15. RR
Airbnb will now make recommendations based on where you are in your trip-planning process
Airbnb users in a few select cities today will start to get experience suggestions relevant to where they are in their trip-planning process. Under the app's "For You" tab, Airbnb will now show travelers currently on holiday what they can do that's near them. If the person is still a few weeks out from the start of their trip, Airbnb will show them experiences they can sign up for in advance. For now, the new personal recommendation features will only be available to travelers and trip planners in Barcelona, Cape Town, Florence, Los Angeles, London, Miami, Paris, Tokyo, and San Francisco. The test is yet another exploration into how Airbnb can be an ever-present travel guide, constantly adding itineraries to a person's trip, rather than a mere accommodation booking tool.
Airbnb has a new plan to lure more business travelers
Today Airbnb said it will launch a new search filter to surface accommodations for business travelers. Listings categorized as "business" promise Wi-Fi and a desk—or other workspace accoutrements like toiletries—that you would ordinarily find at hotels. The new filter launches Monday.
Already Airbnb offers 150,000 business-ready homes. It also says that 250,000 companies use the site to book stays for jet-setting workers. Though Airbnb mostly caters to vacationers right now, it is increasingly positioning itself as more than just a cheap and quirky option for traveling on a budget. This year it bought Luxury Retreats to grow its upscale listings. Now it's targeting business travelers, making it a creeping concern for traditional hotels. RR
Airbnb’s “Big Hotel” critics may be acting out of self-interest, but their concerns are legitimate
According to a new report in the New York Times, the hotel industry has a grand plan to disrupt Airbnb's business, and it's been pretty effective. Recent accomplishments include prompting senators to call for an FTC investigation and lobbying New York lawmakers to impose steep fines on Airbnb hosts that flout short-term housing laws.
The Times report plays nicely into Airbnb's narrative that "Big Hotel" is the engine behind its fiercest critics. But while the hotel industry is certainly acting out of competitive fear, that doesn't mean the questions it's raising aren't legitimate. We should be asking how Airbnb ensures the safety of its users. And we should continue to track its effects on housing markets in cities like New York and Los Angeles.
Yes, the majority of Airbnb hosts may be using the platform legitimately, but we don't know what effect even a small group of bad actors can have local housing markets, especially those with low vacancy rates. The hotel industry may have ulterior motives, but prompting regulators to consider the effects of a new type of industry—one that's growing as quickly as home-sharing—isn't such a bad thing.
[Source photo: Flickr user Jonathan Haeber] RR