Airbnb adds hotels, loyalty programme to rival Booking and Expedia

Airbnb adds hotels, loyalty programme to rival Booking and Expedia

Co-founder and CEO of Airbnb Brian Chesky speaks during an interview in Langa township, Cape Town March 17, 2017. — Reuters picCo-founder and CEO of Airbnb Brian Chesky speaks during an interview in Langa township, Cape Town March 17, 2017. — Reuters picSAN FRANCISCO, Feb 23 — Airbnb Inc is largely known for cheap accommodations and the occasional awkwardness that comes with staying in someone else’s home. Now the company wants to broaden its appeal by incorporating what has long been seen as the enemy: Hotels.

Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s co-founder and chief executive officer, plans to outline a new roadmap at a company event yesterday designed to make his service more mainstream. The efforts include highlighting hotels on the website, a loyalty program, and the ability to match guests with accommodations that fit their budgets and tastes.

Although Airbnb has let hotels and bed-and-breakfasts quietly list on its website for years, Chesky will give the clearest indication that hotels are an essential piece of his strategy to create a full-service travel company.

The move is intended to attract business from online travel agencies Expedia Inc and Booking Holdings Inc, formerly known as Priceline Group. Because Airbnb is charging much lower commission fees, it could be very effective. “At a high level this is a negative for Booking and Expedia,” said Kevin Kopelman, an analyst at Cowen & Co.

Since debuting in 2008, Airbnb has raised about US$3.1 billion (RM12.1 billion) in funding, and recently it has been under some pressure to go public. Investors have valued the business at US$31 billion, the second-biggest US venture-backed technology startup without a stock listing. (Only Uber Technologies Inc is more valuable.)

But Airbnb is profitable before certain expenses, and Chesky is in no hurry to hold an initial public offering. Chesky has said there’s more he’d like to accomplish before then and that Airbnb would not go public this year. Bloomberg had previously reported on his plans to create a tiered listing system and offer more a hotel-like service through a program called Airbnb Select.

Airbnb has a long-combative relationship with what it describes as “the hotel cartel.” On the site, hotel inventory used to be indistinguishable from home-rental listings. Yet, hotel listings on the service have increased sixfold over the past year, according to the company. The service currently has 204,000 rooms from hotels and bed-and-breakfast places for rent.

The economics are especially attractive to hotels. While Airbnb charges as much as a 15 per cent commission to guests, hotels and other hosts pay 3 per cent to 5 per cent for each booking. That’s considerably less than the average 17 per cent fee Expedia and Booking take from hotels, according to Cowen, the research firm.

Soon, Airbnb will let people search for hotel listings in a new category called Boutique. Don’t expect to find a Motel 6 on there. A document Airbnb created for hotel owners reads, “Larger corporate hotel chains are not the right fit for Airbnb.”

The company said it’ll vet listings and has partnered with SiteMinder, which provides booking software to about 28,000 hotel brands around the world. In marketing materials distributed in advance of yesterday’s event, the word “hotel” is never used. — Bloomberg

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