Airbnb is facilitating business travellers’ accommodation not just through individual bookings but also via travel management companies (TMCs) and corporate end-users, particularly multinational companies.

Airbnb is often seen as the leading disruptor in conventional lodging. But addressing attendees at the UFI Open Seminar in Asia 2017 in February, Airbnb’s Business Travel Lead APAC Kevin Hoong (main) says it sees itself “as an innovator, not disruptor”.

Hoong shared that only 10 per cent of total guests are business travellers, which translates to 15 million people. Main reasons include extended stay—business travellers average six days’ stay against four for leisure travellers; relocation; “compression”—due to mega-events or peak season; and group travel.

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Airbnb is already dealing directly with banks and accounting firms, and global companies such as Google, Facebook. In 2016, due to limited hotel options near the venue, it helped secure accommodation for 400 Deloitte Southeast Asia staff meeting in Singapore—where guidelines (which became law last month) forbid renting private residential properties for less than six months. 

A recent American Hotel & Lodging Association report criticised Airbnb for allowing “the growth of ‘illegal hotels’ that are often unregulated properties operating in residential neighbourhoods”.

To delve further, CEI Asia asked three TMCs why and how they work with Airbnb, and the impact on business events.

Belinda Doery, director, American Express Meetings & Events, APAC (above) says that American Express Global Business Travel reached a first-of-its-kind agreement with Airbnb last year. “This shift towards embracing non-traditional accommodation options is a result of traveller demand. Such options are becoming increasingly appealing for workers on extended trips, as well as smaller groups involved in internal meetings or incentives.”

Travel managers need to consider total trip cost, and evaluate the right option for their travellers. Employers must also consider duty of care towards employees and insurance implications.

“As a TMC, our role is to enable the best possible experience for travellers while addressing our customers’ needs around safety/security, programme management, employment practices, data aggregation and bottom-line savings.

“We are working with Airbnb to ensure we can extract booking details into our data environment for cost analytics and duty of care purposes for our clients, if they decide Airbnb is the right fit for their organisation,” says Doery.

BCD Travel works with Airbnb for Business to provide corporate travel clients with rich data in a new security and risk management offering that can track the location and trip patterns of business travellers.

Lisa Hopkins, BCD Meetings & Events managing director, Asia Pacific, says: “Airbnb’s data will be integrated into BCD Travel’s proprietary DecisionSource© business intelligence and security solution, allowing clients to interact with maps and detailed reports in real time and bring Airbnb accommodation bookings into view for managed travel.”

However, Hopkins (above) says they have not received requests from events customers to access Airbnb. “Our hotel partners have been able to handle all our inventory needs to date,” she says.

Pharmaceutical and financial services/banking clients, for instance, are very specific about accommodation, often in conjunction with facilities such as meeting rooms.

Hopkins acknowledges clients’ concern for duty of care, compliance and consistency of services and standards, and BCD adopts a stringent approach.

CWT Meetings & Events senior director, Asia Pacific Michael Chiay (below) says there is no single, definitive way to determine whether a sharing economy supplier is a good fit for a company’s travel programme. “It depends on the company culture, appetite for something new, and their risk management policies, among other things.”

CWT travel agents can book Airbnb accommodation on behalf of their clients’ travellers. This includes integration into CWT’s off-channel reporting.

“However, we have found adoption of sharing economy services like Airbnb for meetings and events has been relatively lower. Key concerns include delegate tracking, the ability for organisers to negotiate bulk accommodation rates, and proximity to venues,” Chiay says.

“The quality and consistency of products and services in the sharing economy model is another factor limiting the adoption of such services in the meetings and events industry,” he adds.

Doery says the overall impact of Airbnb for the MICE industry is still limited. “The majority of properties on offer have limited capacity, whereas MICE groups often need larger inventory.”

Nevertheless, Hopkins thinks Airbnb could attract association conference delegates who are self-funded.

So while Airbnb has not seriously affected Asia-Pacific meetings and events, given the dynamics and momentum, this could soon change.